Hampshire 198 for 8 (Abell 3-18) v Somerset
Former players smile down from almost every wall at Taunton. Very many years hence they will be joined by Tom Abell, whose disposition is as cheery and unspoilt as any. And a Somerset supporter may nudge his friend and say: "Remember that season which began with Tom saying he wasn't really a bowler at all " If we have many more mornings like this, such a scenario may become more than a rain-break reverie.
For when the westerly clouds closed in eight overs before tea on the first day of this game Abell's 3 for 18 had done much to limit Hampshire to 198 for 8. His brisk medium pace and his ability to swing the ball had accounted for Joe Weatherley and James Vince in the morning session and then Lewis McManus a moment or two before the rain harried the players from the field. Having lost the toss and then been invited to bat anyway, Vince's batsmen were entitled to be disappointed with themselves. This is a used wicket which is not likely to improve but Hampshire had raced to 86 for 1 in a little more than 18 overs. The visitors can look back on something of a wasted opportunity whereas Somerset's cricketers will be relieved to have had just about the best of a day on which they had not bowled very well.
The morning began as it was to continue for long periods. Lewis Gregory bowled no-balls and Craig Overton over-pitched. Weatherly and Jimmy Adams helped themselves to 30 runs off the first six overs and Weatherley was then dropped by Matt Renshaw at second slip off Tim Groenewald. Two overs later the bowled received balm for his pain when Adams was given out caught behind for 23. The batsmen departed, gesturing towards his pad and one could see his point.
That wicket did not halt the flow of runs. A further 40 came off the next eight overs before Abell took a hand just after midday. In his second over Weatherley played inside a ball which held its own and was lbw for 28; Vince, having hit ten fours in his 44, some of them of Kodak-quality, edged one which swung away late. The visitors lunched on 111 for 3; Somerset's bowlers offered a word of prayer in gratitude for their three small mercies.
Things got worse for Hampshire on the resumption when Hashim Amla made to glance Groenewald's first ball and was caught down the leg side by Steve Davies. It is the sort of thing that happens to teams on the slide. Then Gregory rediscovered his accuracy and bowled Tom Alsop off the inside edge. Freed by his coaches to play his own game, Rilee Rossouw hit eight fours in his 38 and even McManus weighed in with a four and a straight six off the same Dom Bess over. But by then Rossouw had been caught at cover off the spinner when playing an ugly drive to leg. McManus's dismissal simply set a seal on the home team's recovery.
And there could have been no better afternoon on which to be reminded of Somerset's battling qualities. For even by the standards of the County Ground this was a special day. A board commemorating the Somerset Stragglers was unveiled at lunchtime; there was a former players' dinner in the evening; and in a gesture of West Country solidarity Devon members were given free entry to the cricket. The reason for this munificence was the celebration of Somerset Day and for a while it seemed the generosity extended to the county's bowlers. It was left to Abell to change things.