Sidebottom sniffs out Somerset vulnerability

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Somerset 41 for 3 (Sidebottom 3-15) trail Yorkshire 202 (Hodd 59, J Overton 3-30) by 161 runs

Somerset's young captain, Tom Abell, knows that the time has come for his batsmen, himself included, to respond if their memorable tilt at the Championship last season is not to be followed by relegation this time around.

Knowing is one thing, doing another. Presented with an opportunity to complete a dominant first day after dismissing Yorkshire for 202, Somerset finished on 41 for 3 by the close. "What's the forecast for tomorrow?" one sage asked. "More wickets," came the reply.

It is impossible not to have sympathy for Abell. Not that he wants sympathy. He wants runs. Not just from himself but from his team. Sympathy is a consideration of failure and so best avoided, especially when his only half-century in the previous match against Middlesex came on a dead final day.

He made a second-ball duck. Ryan Sidebottom slanted one across him and he edged to the wicketkeeper. An exasperated swish of the bat and off he went. He needs someone to drop a sitter at first slip, followed by a successful slog the next ball.

Sidebottom sniffs old batting vulnerability like an old sea dog sniffs out submerged rocks. Seven overs with the new ball brought him 3 for 15 - Dean Elgar caught at slip, Marcus Trescothick bowled as he drove loosely. Somerset's batting has so many submerged rocks that somebody should build a lighthouse by the pavilion. Instead, they are erecting big temporary stands which almost, but not quite, destroy the atmosphere of the ground.

It has been a difficult summer with the bat for Somerset. But if you play on a used pitch for the third time this season, the odds are that the bowlers will be on top. Both sides are presuming this is a three-day game if the weather does not disrupt things too much. As both sides have a home Royal London Cup play-off to prepare for immediately afterwards, they are not about to complain too much about that.

When you are struggling, fate conspires against you. Somerset chose to call up Adam Hose, a 24-year-old batsman from the Isle of Wight who had been in prolific form for the 2nd XI. A Taunton favourite, Peter Trego, was the man dropped. That is the sort of thing that makes people change your cross on an election ballot in protest. The Lib Dems might have avoided a South-West wipe-out if they had protested.

Hose seemed to strain a thigh while fielding, left the field, left the ground and, although Somerset offered no explanation, one only assume that scan-type things took place.

To dismiss Yorkshire for 202 was far more cheery. There are good things for Somerset to cling to. Jack Leach, the left-arm spinner who was so influential last summer, is gradually regaining his confidence after England's unnecessary testing of his action at Loughborough in the winter - a classic case, surely, of people justifying jobs. He took two wickets, bowling Gary Ballance on the sweep and following up with Matthew Waite, who is a promising allrounder but markedly high in the order at No. 6, via a cagey push forward and edge to first slip.

The offspinner, Dom Bess, who stood alongside Leach as Somerset pushed for the title last season, also took a couple of wickets. Both will anticipate more spin second time around and will be confident that they can outbowl Yorkshire's pair of Azeem Rafiq and Kyle Carver.

Best of all was Jamie Overton. When everything clicks, he looks a giant of a fast bowler and he was impressive here, generating extra bounce to have Adam Lyth caught in the gully, Peter Handscomb lbw and defeat Jack Leaning's attempted hook shot. Andy Hodd rallied Yorkshire with a half-century, but he took a few blows and admitted he never saw the first ball he received from Overton, which he ducked instinctively.

Yorkshire, for all their Championship pretensions, are vulnerable. Sidebottom leads a weakened attack - no Tim Bresnan, who is on family duties, no David Willey, Liam Plunkett or Adil Rashid, who are in the Champions Trophy, no Ben Coad, one of the country's leading wicket-taker's, laid low with sore shins, no Jack Brooks, who was left out, a surprising decision even allowing for his poor Taunton record.

They have not won in their last seven visits to Taunton, losing three. So there is hope for Somerset. Abell just needs his side to turn it into victory.