County Championship – day one (close)

Somerset v Hampshire 198-8

TOM Abell picked up three wickets as Somerset reduced Hampshire to 198-8 before rain brought an early end to the first day of the County Championship encounter at Taunton.

Playing on a used pitch, Somerset put Hampshire in upon winning the toss and opted for two spinners, selecting Dom Bess in the XI despite not having named the 20-year-old in the squad on the eve of the match, while the visitors went for an all-seam attack.

Hampshire made a fast start as Somerset’s opening bowlers paid the price for indiscipline. The visitors were 30-0 after six overs - eight of which were via no-balls – and, though Craig Overton and Lewis Gregory each beat the bat on occasions, both often strayed too straight against the right-handed Joe Weatherley and left-handed Jimmy Adams.

Tim Groenewald soon came into the attack and was unfortunate not to claim a wicket with his eighth ball, as Matt Renshaw – in place at second slip in the absence of the injured Marcus Trescothick - put down Weatherley when the batsman was on 13.

He was not to be denied midway through his next over, drawing an inside edge from Adams which was safely caught behind the stumps by Steve Davies as the opener fell for 23.

New batsman James Vince got off the mark in unconvincing fashion, flaying an edged drive through the vacant third slip region, but soon took advantage of some short and wide bowling to collect 17 from his first nine balls.

Somerset were in need of a breakthrough as Hampshire raced to 84-1 from 18 overs and captain Tom Abell, the golden arm at Old Trafford last week, provided it by dismissing Weatherley lbw for 28 in his second over.

The skipper struck again soon afterwards, removing James Vince after an innings which has now become the England man’s trademark – some glorious drives, some loose shots and a departure when well set.

Vince made 44 from 43 deliveries before edging a full Abell outswinger through to Davies as the decision to bowl became gradually more vindicated.

Tom Alsop joined Amla and the pair reached lunch at 111-3, but there was a huge breakthrough with the first ball of the afternoon as Groenewald strangled Amla down the leg side and Davies held a regulation catch.

Rilee Rossouw – who scored a match-winning 156 in a Royal London One-Day Cup clash in Taunton last season – began swiftly, latching on to anything short as he racked up a succession of early boundaries.

At the other end, Tom Alsop profited from some sweetly struck drives but a lack of defensive technique cost him when, on 20, Lewis Gregory bowled him through the gate and sent leg stump flying to leave the visitors on 165-5.

Rossouw was tucking into the seamers but became less fluent when Dom Bess was introduced from the River End, resulting in a horrible dismissal on 38 when an attempted flick through mid-wicket ended in a leading edge straight to Jack Leach at short extra cover.

Gregory claimed his second wicket shortly afterwards, nipping one back in to clip Gareth Berg’s knee-roll in front of off stump as Hampshire slipped to 187-7, which became 198-8 when Abell found Lewis McManus’ outside edge – Renshaw atoned for his earlier drop by holding on at second slip to send the wicketkeeper on his way for 21.

Abell, who had three First Class wickets to his name prior to this season at 43.33, now has nine scalps this season at 8.44 apiece.

Rain followed the dismissal of McManus and brought about an early tea, which became an early finish as the rain persisted and the umpires officially called play off shortly before 5.30pm.

Abell finished the day with 3-18 from 8.1 overs, with Gregory (2-41 from 14), Groenewald (2-50 from 12) and Bess (1-17 from seven) also among the wickets.

Craig Overton (0-57 from 12) was not at his best but will be eager to add his name to the wickets columb tomorrow morning.

On the injury front, Jamie Overton was having a bowl on the square during the lunch interval as he works his way back to full fitness while Marcus Trescothick was up in the press box complete with his protective boot to have a stint on BBC commentary - the 42-year-old has surgery on his broken foot on Monday.

Speaking at the close of play, Abell - who currently sits top of the Division One bowling averages - said: "It's nice to contribute with the ball but I don't want to get carried away.

"I have positive experiences now to draw on which gives me more confidence to perhaps bowl more, and I always feel as though I can ask questions when I put the ball in the right places.

"James Vince is a high-class player who looked in good touch, so it was pleaesing to find the edge.

"It's been an even day. We weren't at our best this morning but we are very comfortable with our decision to put them in.

"It wasn't an easy decision at the toss but we thought today would be the most conducive to our bowling unit - it's a fresh wicket with plenty of grass on it.

"I think 200 is about par on this pitch and 250 would be a good score, so we need to pick up those last two wickets as quickly as possible in the morning and then aim to build a good lead."

Somerset County Gazette:

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