NZ propped up by Watling knock
New Zealanders 202 for 7 (Watling 52*, Groenewald 3-53) v Somerset
A drizzly, grey day in sleepy Taunton was about as far removed from the World Cup as could have been fashioned. Even the presence of a cider festival could not rouse the locals from their post-election slumber. Nor a solid bowling performance from Somerset that saw the New Zealanders severely tested in swinging conditions that only stand-in captain BJ Watling came through.
This was a far slower pace of play than the last occasion New Zealand took the field but for a while, at 133 for 6, they did not look likely to better their total in the World Cup final. But while the Black Caps were making their run through the tournament, Watling was playing for Northern Districts and needed to make no adjustment here as he showed the necessary patience required against the moving ball.
Watling actually had a modest Plunkett Shield season, with four fifties in 15 innings, but was the most astute tourist on show at Taunton, making an 83-ball half-century. He was strong square of the wicket, slashing Tim Groenewald for his ninth four before taking a single to reach 50. Driving a length ball from Josh Davey through cover was his most attractive stroke.
He was more disciplined than his team-mates outside off stump, including his main partner for the day Doug Bracewell, who fell edging an airy drive from a length ball after he and Watling had added 57 for the seventh wicket. It ended careful progress that had brought the tourists back into the game having been sent in. But Watling remained until bad light brought a premature end to a day already trimmed by rain.
The early inroads were made by Davey, for whom this game perhaps takes on greater importance than most. Davey, the 24-year-old Scotland seamer who performed admirably at the World Cup with 15 wickets at 20.73, came down to Somerset to revive his career having been released by Middlesex two years ago. He phoned around for a trial and was grateful for a chance in Somerset's 2nd XI, which he seized with a five-for in his first match. He was offered a contract but here was playing his first first-class game for his new county and came on first change.
Just three balls he took to take a maiden wicket, having Tom Latham caught behind. Two overs later and Hamish Rutherford, who got off mark with an edge past gully and played a number of rather loose drives, edged to first slip. Ross Taylor was then twice beaten outside off stump. Jim Allenby took the catch to dismiss Rutherford and he later removed Taylor, also for his first wicket for Somerset, since joining from Glamorgan over the winter. Allenby's second put New Zealand in deep trouble when Mark Craig fell over a straight enough ball to be lbw and sixth man out.
New Zealand were forced to fly out three extra players just to get a fit XI out for this match and one of those parachuted in, Mitchell Santner, a 23-year-old team-mate of Watling's at Northern Districts, impressed for a time with five boundaries, three of them delightfully driven down the ground. But in coming forward to another straight ball, he misjudged the delivery and popped a catch back to Groenewald, who, in his next over, had Luke Ronchi caught at cover off a leading edge.
Alex Winter is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo He tweets here