Essex in control at Somerset after first day of County Championship game

Ravi Bopara, who bowled well to help secure Essex a win over Middlesex.

Ravi Bopara, who bowled well to help secure Essex a win over Middlesex. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

Essex took control on the first day of their Specsavers County Championship game against Somerset in Taunton thanks to a combination of good bowling and careful batting.

Having bowled out their hosts for a modest 209, the visitors progressed to 60 for 2 at the close with the former England Test captain Alastair Cook unbeaten on 39 and looking well set.

Batting first on a used wicket, Somerset looked in decent shape as openers Marcus Trescothick and Dean Elgar passed 50 in the 18th over.

However, after Cook held on to a smart, diving catch at slip, to dismiss Trescothick for 26, off the bowling of Ravi Bopara, Somerset never really recovered.

Trescothick, celebrating the beginning of his 25th season with the county, had looked in precious little trouble against an Essex attack led by seamers Jamie Porter and Neil Wagner. Sadly, for the lions’ share of the 2,350-strong crowd at the Cooper Associates County Ground, his departure at 52 for 1, paved the way for some disappointing and often careless batting.

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Captain Tom Abell, whose first run was applauded by the home supporters, perished shortly after, once again caught by Cook, at slip off Bopara.

Then, despite a mini revival up to lunch, thanks to Elgar and James Hildreth, who added 54 for the third wicket, the wheels came off during an afternoon session in which Somerset lost five wickets.

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Elgar was first to go, stumped by Adam Wheater off the bowling of Ashar Zaidi for 34. Then, this season’s beneficiary, Hildreth, played one shot too many and was caught on the deep backward square leg boundary by Bopara off the bowling of Porter.

Steve Davies departed shortly after, bowled by off-spinner Simon Harmer for 12, leaving Peter Trego to temporarily rescue an increasingly difficult situation.

After losing sixth wicket partner Lewis Gregory at 143 for 6, caught at leg slip by Harmer off the bowling of Neil Wagner, Trego joined forces with Roelof van der Merwe with whom he added 33 for the seventh wicket.

Unfortunately, the members’ joy was short-lived with Somerset eventually losing their final three wickets for just 21 runs.

Trego departed for 48, off 85 balls at 188 for 8, leaving Zaidi to send back Jamie Overton for 3 and Wagner to snare Craig Overton for 10.

All five Essex bowlers enjoyed some success with Zaidi, perhaps, the pick with three for 17 off 12 overs.

Having been forced off, albeit briefly, for bad light, Essex progressed nicely in the final 90 minutes of play, despite the loss of Nick Browne and then, off the final ball of the day, Tom Westley.

Somerset’s Peter Trego said: “I think the game has swung in their favour with Alastair’s innings. But you can only see how good the wicket is, when you have seen both sides bat. However, it’s a sporty wicket and there is something in it for the bowler. And I certainly feel the late wicket was crucial for us going in to tomorrow.

“We have worked hard on a formula of playing positive cricket and our approach is based on attacking cricket. However, today was not our A game.

“But we are not out of the game and we have a great history of fighting back.”

Essex off spinner Simon Harmer added: “I think we have done incredibly well to find ourselves in this position. We lost the toss but we bowled nicely.

“I think we were clinical this week, compared with last week, and have learned some lessons.

“Taunton is traditionally a spinner friendly wicket and it wa salways going to be that the spinners were going to play a big part in the game.

“However, if you bat well, I think you can get runs. It is not a complete worn wicket, but there is certainly something in it for the spinners.

“Alastair is an incredible human being and great cricketer and to have him back in the side is a huge boost. It’s the calmness he brings on and off the field.”

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