29th Match, Taunton, May 17 - 20, 2024, County Championship Division One
(T:189) 554 & 194/2
(f/o) 178 & 564

Somerset won by 8 wickets


Jack Leach strikes on comeback as Somerset cement control

Kent five-down in face of hefty first innings as England spinner gets back to business

Jack Leach struck twice on his return to Championship action, Somerset vs Kent, County Championship, Taunton, May 18, 2024

Jack Leach struck twice on his return to Championship action  •  Getty Images

Kent 108 for 5 (Compton 43, Leach 2-22, Overton 2-23) trail Somerset 554 (Banton 133, Rew 114, Gregory 77, Lammonby 69) by 446 runs
England left-arm spinner Jack Leach claimed two wickets on his return to Somerset's team after a long injury lay-off as they dominated a rain-affected second day of the Vitality County Championship First Division match with Kent at Taunton.
The home side added 114 to their overnight first innings score of 440 for seven to post their highest ever first class score against Kent, skipper Lewis Gregory making 77 off 95 balls with nine fours.
Craig Overton then pinned England's Zak Crawley lbw for a first ball duck as the visitors reached eight for one before the weather closed in just 11 balls into the innings.
Play resumed at 4.45pm and Kent reached stumps on 108 for five, Ben Compton top-scoring with 43 before Leach removed him and Harry Finch late in the day for figures of two for 22 from seven overs.
With George Garrett under treatment for a groin injury, Kent were a seamer light when Somerset resumed their first innings under heavily overcast skies at the start of the morning session. Gregory soon brought up a fifth batting bonus point with an on-driven four off Beyers Swanepoel.
The total had progressed quickly to 460 for seven when Migael Pretorius, on 19, edged a delivery from Grant Stewart (3 for 129) to slip where Marcus O'Riordan took an excellent two-handed catch diving to his left.
Six runs were added, with Josh Davey having joined Gregory before the first rain break of the day came with only 3.5 overs having been bowled. Play resumed at 11.50pm and Gregory moved to his third half-century of the season off 69 balls, with six fours.
Davey contributed a handy 27 before chipping a high catch to mid-wicket off Joey Evison with the score on 517. Out marched last man Leach, returning after knee surgery for his first appearance of the summer and welcomed by a rousing ovation from Somerset fans.
He played some sweet shots in contributing 21 to a tenth-wicket stand of 37 before Gregory's impressive knock was ended by a brilliant diving boundary catch by Crawley off Evison, who finished with three for 92.
Lunch, which had been delayed with nine wickets down, was taken immediately and three overs were lost as another short shower prevented a resumption until 2.05pm. Compton took a couple of boundaries off the opening over of Kent's reply, sent down by Davey, before Overton pinned Crawley leg before with a full delivery, which beat the inside edge.
Daniel Bell-Drummond survived a confident lbw appeal in the same over, but before it ended the rain began falling again and the heavy covers were brought on.
Tea was taken before play restarted with the floodlights on and a possible 31.1 overs left in the day. Compton played positively again, but Bell-Drummond had made only four when driving at Overton and failing to get to the pitch of the ball, wicketkeeper James Rew taking a good two-handed catch diving in front of first slip.
At 28 for two, Kent faced an uphill battle. O'Riordan joined Compton in looking to counter attack and hit 3 fours in moving to 20 before another loose drive saw his stumps scattered by Pretorius with the total on 55.
Leach was introduced into the attack at 76 for 3, but after a tidy maiden saw his second over go for 14 as Compton hit him through the off-side for four and three before Joe Denly lofted a straight six. The skies had cleared to produce the best batting conditions of the day.
Compton looked in prime form. But, having faced 70 balls and cracked seven fours he went to reverse sweep Leach and stood transfixed when judged to have feathered a catch through to Rew.
Finch looked equally perplexed to be given out lbw to Leach on five, having been struck in front possibly off a faint inside edge and Kent had lost half their wickets in 29 overs.
Leach's double strike put Somerset clear command. Their previous highest first-class score against Kent was 503 at Taunton in 1898 when the team included Sammy Woods and the Palairet brothers, Lionel and Richard.
"It has been a frustrating period for me for sure, but time off gives you a chance to reflect on where your game is at," Leach said. "It's a bit of a whirlwind when you are travelling around the world, so it was an opportunity to think about what I had done with Somerset and England, remembering what had taken me on that journey.
"I had a haematoma on my knee and was still progressing to full recovery from a back problem when it happened playing for England in January. I had surgery at the start of March and knew that having missed so much cricket in India, I also had to keep building myself up again from the back issue, so it was always going to take time.
"I don't like to think I have been unlucky with injuries because I have also had a lot of good fortune in my career. Now I just want to get more cricket under my belt. It's not a time to look too far ahead. Hopefully, I can get through this game and move on to the next at Durham, trying to get back into a rhythm."