Trescothick, wiping his glasses, is back in the old routine

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Somerset 308 for 7 (Trescothick 95, Abell 70, Siddle 3-71) v Essex

Captains past and present combined as Marcus Trescothick and Tom Abell's fifties put Somerset on top against Essex on day one of a clash that both sides must win to keep their title ambitions alive.

After 68 days without a day of Championship cricket at Taunton, the fans were treated to a vintage Trescothick innings, as the veteran took advantage of any width and controlled the rhythm of the day, before skipper Abell's gritty 70 took his side towards a commanding position.

And despite taking three late wickets, Essex ended the day behind. Peter Siddle fought hard on his return to four-day cricket after over three months away, but with spin likely to play an important role as this game progresses, they know that they will need to put an imposing total on the board when they get their chance to bat.

The first two sessions of the day were all about Trescothick. The day seemed to move at his pace, as he serenely picked off any width from Porter, Cook, and Harmer as he went through the gears.

It was not a dominating innings by any means: he was dropped at slip on 23 after taking 39 balls to get from 16 to 18, flashed at several balls outside the off stump, and survived a convincing lbw shout from Siddle.

And yet Trescothick still dictated the pace of the day, which seemed to drift or accelerate at his whim. Midway through a Harmer over, he held play up for some two minutes as he removed his helmet, then his left glove, and then his right, before producing a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his glasses clean of sweat. Essex, and the 3,000 or so in attendance, waited patiently for him to give the all-clear, and, after performing the same routine in reverse, he dutifully did so.

From the other end, he played a false shot and edged Sam Cook, an energetic young seamer looking to secure his place in the Essex side, past the slips for four. After then thrashing him through point for another boundary, he nudged a single to keep the strike. Cook, who bowled better than his figures suggested, kicked the turf in frustration; Trescothick, who had made 2179 first-class runs before Cook was even born, trotted resolutely towards the non-striker's end.

There was a sense of disbelief, therefore, when Trescothick pulled the returning Siddle to Nick Browne at deep square leg. Since his return to the county game in 2007, a Trescothick hundred at Taunton has been a feature of the year as sure as death and taxes; here, he fell five runs short of his first at home this summer.

But it would take a brave man to bet against him recording one here before the season is out. As long as Surrey can still be caught - at least mathematically - the Taunton faithful will continue to dream of a 42-year-old Trescothick steering them to a fairytale first Championship title.

When he made 95 on his first-class debut here almost exactly four years ago, Tom Abell seemed like Trescothick's natural successor: a man born and raised in these parts, a top-order batsman oozing with class, and a future England star. While his career has moved slightly differently to its expected course - he is now more comfortable as a number five, and has not scored with the consistency to make a case for a Test place - his 70 here was a reminder of his immense talent.

Abell drove through cover off both front and back foot, and despite playing at missing at several balls outside his off stump, he determinedly held the innings together before edging behind off Ravi Bopara.

It was a disappointing way to go, a first hundred of the season seemingly there for the taking, but he had set the foundations for the lower middle order to counter-attack.

Lewis Gregory - perhaps still in T20 mode - played some attacking strokes to end unbeaten on 42*, and he will try and shepherd the tail towards a score in advance of 350 tomorrow morning.

For Essex, it proved to be another day of frustration. Defending their title was always likely to be a tough ask, and while the bowling attack stuck to their task well, they lacked the venomous bite of last season.

Porter overpitched early on in the day, perhaps overly keen to make a point to Ed Smith and James Taylor ahead of the final two Tests, and despite sending Steve Davies' middle stump flying late in the day, he lacked the pinpoint precision in line and length that usually make him such a weapon on cloudy days like this.

There were signs of turn for Harmer, who bowled 19 unchanged overs at one point, on a slow, sandy wicket as the day wore on, but that may prove ominous for Essex. Dom Bess and Jack Leach have barely bowled in tandem at all this season, but both can expect to play significant roles in the final innings of this match.