Somerset v Worcestershire, Taunton, 1st day September 16, 2009

Mitchell double-century boosts Worcestershire

The Bulletin by John Ward at Taunton

Worcestershire 408 for 4 (Mitchell 232*, Wheeldon 87*) v Somerset

It was a dismal day for a county still hoping to finish second in the championship. Against the bottom team in their division, Somerset bowled and fielded erratically and had to watch Daryl Mitchell bat throughout the day for his maiden double-century. They had only themselves to blame, as Mitchell was badly dropped early in his innings, and he certainly made them pay dearly for this error, to the tune of more than 200 runs. With the cover-drive his favourite stroke, he dominated the day's play with superb determination. His best support came from David Wheeldon, who only played as a late replacement for Ben Smith, and their fifth-wicket partnership added 217 and counting.

Teams visiting Taunton always like to win the toss, as batsmen are able to put their snouts in the trough and gorge themselves straight away, while bowlers are granted a stay of execution before being led forth as lambs to the slaughter. A battered and broken Worcestershire team, after a season of almost unmitigated disaster, were at least spared an immediate two days in the field when Vikram Solanki - who was to throw away his own chance to fill his boots - won the toss. The sky was generally overcast at the start with light cloud and occasional bursts of sun, which grew more numerous as the day progressed.

The pitch, placed well to one side of the square, had a short boundary on one side and the Worcestershire batsmen were happy to take full advantage of it as the home bowlers served up their liquorice all-sorts. Mitchell was soon pumping a generally disappointing Alfie Thomas to the cover boundary almost at will, but on 28 he edged a ball at about head-height - only for Craig Kieswetter to put it down.

He lost Stephen Moore at 73, successfully caught at the wicket from an attempted hook off Peter Stiff for 32. Just before lunch he reached his first fifty off 89 balls. Moments before the interval Solanki (6) essayed an expansive drive and was caught at first slip off Charl Willoughby, leaving his team 109 for 2.

Just before the players returned, there was a brief ceremony as Arun Suppiah and Kieswetter received their county caps: the latter had had a mixed morning, with a catch, a serious drop and a few fumbles. He soon took a second catch, as Moeen Ali (1) was beaten by a good ball from Willoughby.

After this it was hard going for Somerset and their innocuous bowling. Alexei Kurzevee played solidly while Mitchell reached his century, which arrived off 160 balls. Peter Stiff had an erratic spell, with fine leg proving a profitable scoring area with so many short leg-side deliveries coming the way of the batsmen. But he did take a wicket, as Kervezee made an awful hash of a long hop outside off stump and managed to sky it to backward point.

Instead of being inspired by his good fortune Stiff bowled even more erratically, helping inexperienced David Wheeldon settle in. Not that Stiff was the only offender,by any means: only Willoughby and Ben Phillips kept the runs down to any extent, and even they proved expensive with the second new ball. Mitchell pumped a half-volley from Willoughby through the covers for four to reach his double-century, which came off 262 balls. The second hundred, therefore, took him only 102 deliveries. Wheeldon had already reached his maiden 50, which took him 77 balls.

Both live to fight another day. Thirty five fours after tea graphically illustrated their dominance; only Phillips of the front-line bowlers conceded less than four an over. Somerset have a lot of ground to make up. But is it being cynical to say that the most likely result as Taunton is always a draw?