Kyle Abbott makes Somerset rue first use as Hampshire surge to ascendancy

Hosts rolled aside for 211 with Overton's 44 providing late resistance

Hampshire 29 for 0 trail Somerset 211 (Overton 44, Abbott 3-60) by 182 runs

Take this, bottle it up, and then repeat it. Flicking through the scores, this one may not immediately grab the scroller’s attention. An excellent day for Hampshire, yes, but a little dull?

Not in the slightest. With LV=Insurance County Championship cricket one should always dig a little deeper. Therein lies the beauty. There was quality aplenty, and much to celebrate. And much was celebrated by the few thousand present in the west country sunshine, the biggest crowd of Taunton’s home summer thus far.

Likewise, those tuned in attentively online, and the folk listening to the soft tones provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation. A bits and pieces day maybe. But those parts glistened. Knock county cricket at your peril: plenty will defend it.

Hampshire, and their attack supreme, dominated, Somerset dismissed 211. Kyle Abbott is a man few would offer to buy a pint in the Ring of Bells, the pub adjacent to the ground. Somerset both loathe and fear Abbott in equal parts. His record against them is exceptional, the second of his day-one triptych – Tom Banton trapped leg-before – took him to a half century of red-ball wickets in ten matches

Essex – who named Abbott their Player of the Month in September 2019 after his 17-wicket haul against Somerset boosted their ultimately successful title bid – is next on his list. A man for the big occasion then.

And with him was Mohammad Abbas who, it is fair to say, hooped it. Four byes came at one point when he beat Craig Overton on the outside, only for the ball to dart viciously in and away from a tumbling Ben Brown.

Either side of lunch was where Abbas inflicted damage, Tom Abell (more on that below) and James Hildreth the victims. His 17 overs cost just 21 runs. There are few in England who can match his skill levels.

Overton, one of two Somerset men named in England’s Test squad this week, top scored. He endured a torrid time with the bat in the early throes of the summer, but bludgeoned his way back into some form in the west country derby last week.

Liam Dawson’s first over of spin was two balls old when Overton danced and struck him into Gimblett’s Hill. Two balls later, a further blow was more agricultural. Post tea, Overton pulled James Fuller with authority, before bopping Abbott over his head for four. He had 44 to his name when he found Felix Organ in the deep off Abbott, who barely celebrated.

Earlier, it was Abell whose first action of his 100th first-class appearance was successful. Having called correctly he backed his batters whom, himself included, have been in fine fettle.

Somerset’s start was stymied by the ‘ball on a string’ starts from Keith Barker and Abbas. Neither is blessed with any great pace but what they lack there, they make up for elsewhere. The taxman gives away more freebies than their opening burst.

But that is not to say they were dominant. Tom Lammonby and Matt Renshaw, whose opening partnership has borne fruit in recent weeks, were watchful, happy to bide their time. But then a familiar tale: Somerset lost wickets too regularly.

Lammonby went first, nicking Abbott to Dawson at second slip. Then went Renshaw, the mode and catcher the same, Ian Holland the bowler. Holland had been introduced ahead of Fuller and it proved a shrewd move. The sense was after such pressure, eyes lit up at Holland’s introduction.

Abell can count himself genuinely unlucky. A defensive push went down into the foot holes and spun back. Abell’s attempted side-foot pass was unsuccessful, his frustration externalised. Had it been Barker, with his footballing roots, the outcome would have been different.

Speaking of Barker, his frustration will have been of a different kind. That he took the new ball ahead of Abbott is testament to his standing. That he remained wicketless is no testament to how he bowled. An opening half-dozen cost the same number of runs, his next four just the single. Pressure, pressure and more pressure.

It looked for a time like Banton might be announcing himself as a red-ball cricketer. He is certainly pouring everything into it. Aa pre-season hundred brought promise, before a finger fracture ruled him out of the opening rounds. In the end that was a mercy, but his return has earned a promotion to four.

Banton’s application was unquestionable: watchful and patient. When Barker strayed short, Banton cut, when he overpitched, Banton was punched straight. But Barker errors were rare. Having reached the mid-20s, Banton attempted that flick through mid-wicket that is so fruitful in white-ball cricket. He missed and Ian Blackwell’s finger shot up. The disappointment was palpable although he had passed 1,000 first-class runs.

Steve Davies shaped up nicely, but played a ball he could have left alone and nicked Dawson to James Vince. That comes with the territory. Josh Davey too played several nice strokes, getting off the mark with a lusty six down the ground.

And low and behold a minor miracle: a ball actually lasted 80 overs. This new batch of Dukes doing what those which went before them failed.

Hampshire had a tricky 15 overs to navigate in the gloom and with the lights on. 15 times Organ and Holland played and missed, more than half of those leaving Peter Siddle bemused. But they did exactly as tasked: blunt the Somerset seamers and ensure they had 11 happy diners come feeding time. An excellent day’s work from the visitors.

Same again tomorrow? Yes please.