Somerset v Worcestershire, Taunton, 2nd day September 17, 2009

Mitchell falls short of triple hundred

The Bulletin by John Ward at Taunton

Somerset 184 for 3 (Trescothick 72) trail Worcestershire 571 (Mitchell 298, Wheeldon 87, Cox 61, Trego 3-89) by 387 runs

Worcestershire enjoyed another fairly good day at the County Ground in Taunton, with a monumental innings of 298 by Daryl Mitchell top of the list of individual performances. The visiting opener just failed to set a new record by being the third player to score a first-class triple century on the same ground during the same season, following those by James Hildreth and Murray Goodwin. There was a very promising innings by Ben Cox, the debutant Bromsgrove schoolboy, while both Alfonso Thomas and Peter Trego dragged something back for Somerset with incisive bowling spells.

Worcestershire began the day in the sublime position, for them, of 408 for 4: Mitchell had 232 and David Wheeldon 87, continuing a partnership that had already realized 217. It was extended by a single run, as Wheeldon's inexperience told against him. In the second over of the day, without adding to his score, he attempted to pull a short ball from Thomas before playing himself in, and hit it straight to midwicket. He departed furious with himself.

Gareth Andrew also fell to Thomas, fending at a short ball outside off stump and edging to third slip. Thomas was bowling more impressively than any of the Somerset players on the first day, but Mitchell bided his time, picking up the ones and twos, while dispatching loose balls to the boundary. His 250 arrived off 318 balls, and now the coveted landmark of 300 approached.

His new partner was Cox, the 17-year-old wicketkeeper making his debut. For a batsman, playing one's first match at Taunton with the sun shining and against Somerset's bowling is rather like hitting the jackpot, and Cox was in the right mood to collect his winnings. He began, naturally enough, a little nervously, but steadied himself and was soon playing his strokes with creditable freedom and good shot selection, especially on the off side. He reached 50 off 65 balls with an off-drive against Arul Suppiah, a part-time spinner who was the only slow bowler Somerset unwisely decided to play on such a pitch; locals shook their heads and said they had not learned any lessons from the Lancashire match, when the lack of a spinner on the final day told heavily against them.

At lunch Mitchell was on 288, but unfortunately he fell short on the final stretch. The villain of the piece, so to speak, was the unpredictable Trego, who at this stage of the innings decided to put it together as he produced a fine delivery that ripped through Mitchell's defences and knocked back his middle stump on 298. Mitchell had batted with wonderful application for 380 balls, hitting a six and 54 fours, most of them to the short western boundary.

Neither was there to be a dream debut century for Cox, who was quite nonplussed by another beauty from Trego that knocked out his off stump, but had shown great maturity and judgment in his innings of 61. Next Trego yorked Matt Mason, leg stump, for 4, as Trego picked out a different stump each time. The Worcestershire tail had little to offer and the innings slid to a close for 571, the last four wickets going for 32.

Somerset made their usual positive start with Marcus Trescothick and the greatly improved Suppiah. The latter punished Mason for bowling outside the off stump, but on 22 he was thoroughly beaten a bowled by a yorker for Andrew. Justin Langer came in to play in his final home match for the county, received a generous ovation, and made a workmanlike 46 before he cut a ball from Jack Shantry straight to gully.

Trescothick, looking for a big innings to keep his hopes of 2,000 runs for the season alive, played in his usual style, near-mastery with a touch of vulnerability and hammering the bad balls with ease to the boundary. But he had a couple of close escapes early on from near-catches, and finally leapt down the pitch to a ball from offspinner Moeen Ali, trying to hit it out of the ground, but instead providing Cox with a smart stumping, his first victim in first-class cricket. His departure for 72 made Somerset 161 for three and brought about dark mumblings from the locals about the possibility of a follow-on.

James Hildreth and Zander de Bruyn kept Somerset in the game, though, by playing out time calmly. They ended the day still needing 238 more runs to save the follow-on, but the Worcestershire bowlers will have to do well - or Somerset bat particularly badly - to achieve this on the Taunton pitch. The sun shone all day and there were still several hundred spectators at this stage of the season to watch a match that is still most likely to end in a draw.