|Ground:||County Ground, Taunton|
|Scorecard:||Somerset v Durham|
|Event:||LV County Championship 2012|
DateLine: 28th May 2012
Somerset v Durgam
At Taunton, Day 3
Close of play: Durham (384 and 167) lost to Somerset (400/9 dec and 152/5) by five wickets.
The unpredictable nature of cricket took over at the County Ground in Taunton today when, after the teams appeared equally matched overnight, Somerset pulled right ahead on the third day and were able to win by five wickets with a full day to spare. Some superb bowling, especially from George Dockrell who ripped through the Durham middle order with his left-arm spin for six cheap wickets, turned the game on its head, and Somerset were able to reach a target of 152 just before the close.
Play resumed on the third day with the match perfectly balanced, Somerset having 357 for eight wickets against Durham’s first-innings total of 384. In contrast to the sun on the previous day, the morning was overcast, though warm, with enough of a haze to hide the Quantock Hills from view. Durham took the second new ball immediately, but it did them little good. Peter Trego, on 67 overnight, lost little time in attacking the bowling, and after 20 minutes’ play he launched a powerful off-drive for four off Jamie Harrison that took Somerset into the lead, still with two wickets in hand. Later in the over, though, a delivery from Harrison burst through his defence as he unwisely played back, and he was bowled for 89. His innings lasted 131 balls and contained nine fours and a six.
From 389 for nine, the last pair of George Dockrell and Jamie Overton scraped together another 11 runs to give Somerset another batting point, at which point the innings was promptly declared. Harrison, on his first-class debut, recorded the best bowling figures of four for 112, while Ian Blackwell took three for 74.
There was a feeling that Somerset had declared to take advantage of the best bowling conditions of the match so far – not that they had done Durham much good – and there followed a very interesting period of play, as for the first time in the match the bowling was able to trouble the batting. This was mainly the work of Jamie Overton, who bowled a superb opening spell from the old pavilion end. Michael Di Venuto pulled his first delivery, and the first that he himself faced, for six, but the bowler pulled himself together and gave Di Venuto a torrid time in his next over, beating the bat several times. He eventually won the battle in his fifth over, as Di Venuto jabbed at a ball just outside his off stump and edged it into the slips. He made 26, and the score was 36 for one.
Overton also troubled Mark Stoneman, without being able to remove him, and eventually took his sweater after a spell of 7-2-24-1, which did him no justice. The score was 59 for one after lunch, but when play resumed it was the turn of Jamie’s brother Craig to put the cat among the pigeons. Craig, from the river end, quickly removed Stoneman for 13, edging in to the slips as he tried to remove his bat, and then Ben Stokes without scoring, the batsman too late on a cut shot and also feeding the slips. Still within half an hour of lunch, the adhesive opener Will Smith at the other end gave yet another slip catch off Alfie Thomas for 22, and Somerset were scenting victory, Durham facing disarray, at 69 for four.
Into the breach stepped the old warriors, Paul Collingwood and Blackwell. Collingwood was very grim to start with, but Blackwell soon began to stamp his authority with two successive fours through the covers off Craig Overton. When Dockrell came on Blackwell hammered him for six and four, again in succession, but the Irish left-arm spinner knew what he was doing; the next delivery Blackwell (38) completely misjudged and sent him a straightforward return catch. Just when they looked like coming out of trouble, Durham were now 131 for five.
Without addition Phil Mustard was also on his way back to the pavilion, caught via bat and pad off Dockrell, immediately followed by Liam Plunkett, spectacularly caught by Craig Overton leaping sideways at mid-off to catch a drive. Callum Thorp joined the party, driving uppishly into the covers, and four wickets had fallen in 22 balls with the score on 131, all to Dockrell.
Collingwood was still there, though, and with Harrison decided attack was the best method of defence. Collingwood drove Dockrell for three fours in an over, while Harrison struck two boundaries off Trego’s next over. But it didn’t last long: in Dockrell’s next over Collingwood went for a big leg-side hit and the ball flew off his bat to slip. He made 32, and the score was now 158 for nine. The last pair briefly resisted, but Dockrell finally wrapped it up by having Harrison caught on the off side off bat and pad for 20, finishing with the remarkable figures of six for 29. The great contributions of the Overton twins could all too easy be forgotten. The Somerset fielding, like Durham’s, was at times fallible on the ground.
Somerset were now left with 152 to win, the sun shining and four sessions still available to them. But it was to be no walkover. Harrison struck with the very first ball of the innings, trapping Alex Barrow lbw and bringing in Nick Compton, needing to score 66 to reach his 1000 for the season. Compton went for his strokes from the start, but did not last long, top-edging a sweep off Blackwell (who opened the bowling opposite Harrison) to be caught at slip for 8 off 11 balls. At 17 for two, Somerset now needed to consolidate and make sure they did not throw away all they had fought for so hard during the day.
Arul Suppiah and James Hildreth stopped the rot, but still kept the board ticking over quite briskly; the players had obviously set their sights on a free day tomorrow. Suppiah played a mixture of solid defence with occasional lusty blows, three times swinging sixes off Blackwell, who tended to bowl too many short deliveries. Suppiah reached his fifty off 72 balls, and the score had reached exactly 100 when Hildreth miscued a pull off Steve Harmison and was caught at midwicket for 31.
Suppiah’s fine batting continued until he swept across the line at a ball from the occasional off-spinner Will Smith and was lbw for 73 off 101 balls; he hit seven fours and four sixes. Before the target was achieved Joseph Buttler (7) drove an easy catch to mid-off, but a four and a mighty pulled six from Craig Keiswetter hasted the game to a close. The result will send Somerset no doubt briefly to the top of the Division One Championship table, while the once mighty Durham are still struggling without a win.