Preston’s Tom Bailey took four wickets in seven deliveries with the second new ball to give Lancashire supporters something to cheer on the first day of their Specsavers County Championship match against Somerset at Emirates Old Trafford.
Until Bailey made his dramatic intervention deep in the evening session, Lancashire had been on the receiving end of a Tom Abell master-class, the Somerset opener making a career-best 135 as his side progressed smoothly to 267 for two in a match they may need to win to keep the pressure on Middlesex and Yorkshire at the top of the Division One table.
Then Bailey had both James Hildreth and Jim Allenby caught by Alviro Petersen at second slip before cramping Abell for room and having the 22-year-old caught behind by Steven Croft. Lewis Gregory was lbw to his first ball and there was even time in the same dramatic over for Craig Overton to be dropped by Toby Lester, the missed chance denying Bailey his hat-trick in his first game since the Roses match in early June.
Bailey’s three wickets in the over transformed the atmosphere at Old Trafford and Kyle Jarvis added to the home supporters’ unexpected pleasure when he bowled Overton for nine. At that point Somerset had lost five wickets for 20 runs but by the close Somerset were 339 for seven which represents prosperity for the visitors but not the degree of dominance they had threatened for two sessions.
Indeed, they owed their late revival to an unbroken 52-run stand between Peter Trego and Ryan Davies, Trego hitting nine fours in his important 49 not out.
All of which was a long way from the morning session when, after losing the toss and being asked to bat - which is presumably what they wanted to do in the first place – Somerset enjoyed the best of things. True, Marcus Trescothick and Abell played a few false shots against the three frontline Lancashire seamers but the openers also stroked some fine boundaries during a session which was twice interrupted by rain but ended in bright sunshine with the visitors on 69 for no wicket.
Trescothick reached a thousand Championship runs for the season when he cut Toby Lester for four in the 13th over and was 37 not out at lunch. Abell was unbeaten on 32, although he had enjoyed an escape five minutes before the interval when Rob Jones shelled a catch in the gully off Luke Procter.
In the afternoon session Somerset progressed to 182 for one with the only wicket to fall being that of Trescothick who pulled Jordan Clark straight to backward square leg when he had made 60 off 109 balls, only to see Simon Kerrigan take a quite brilliant two-handed catch above his head.
That wicket ended the opening stand of 134 but when the players returned to the pavilion for tea there were still 39 overs left in the day and Abell was unbeaten on 97 and his skipper, Chris Rogers, was on 24 not out.
Abell reached his century, the third of his career, with a straight drive off Luke Procter in the second over after tea. He reached three figures off 185 balls, having his 16 boundaries, most of them of the highest class.
And Somerset’s dominance seemed set to continue, even after Rogers was caught down the leg side by Croft off Jordan Clark for 47, thus ending his 93-run stand with Abell. However, even though Somerset have collected three batting bonus points, the balance of this vital match was rather different at close of play.
Bailey said afterwards: “I didn’t think we bowled too well at the start of the day having won the toss. But that evening session turned out to be a pretty good one.
“We had to make up for it after being wicketless in the first session, so to come back hard like we did at the end there was good.
“I was quite nervous this morning, not having played in the first team for about three months. This evening I had settled into it and looked to hit a decent length.
“We’re disappointed by that final partnership, but if we can come back in the morning and take three early wickets it will be a good two days.
“I was bowling well at the start of the year. Then I tore my side in the Roses match which was really disappointing, but these things happen. It would have been nice to have a full season. Last year was my first full season without an injury.
“I’ve been fit for a month now, but had to get my overs in the second team.
“I always feel like I could do a job but it’s great to just be back in the side.”