Minus 6

An opening day where Sam Robson and Somerset's unusually poor catching gave the home side the edge despite four wickets in the last session

LV County Championship Group 2, Middlesex v Somerset, Lord’s Day 1

Middlesex 292-8 Gregory 4-54, Robson 165

Not a reference to the temperature, although those lucky enough to be inside Lord’s might beg to differ, but Somerset’s points total after their first day’s labours in the 2021 County Championship. In truth it was that sort of day. Somerset were a little below par in the field but can also argue that they didn’t get the rub of the green.

You wouldn’t expect the first over of your County Championship campaign, in April, having won the toss and inserted the opposition, on a green pitch, your “gun” international opening bowler to go for thirteen runs. You certainly wouldn’t expect your debutant pace bowler to exactly replicate the concession of 13 runs in his first over when he came on as first change. Both happened as Craig Overton and then Marchant de Lange began their seasons from the still under re-development Nursery End at Lord’s.

Middlesex fairly rattled along thanks to not just those 26 runs but to a pitch that was far better for batting than one could reasonably expect and a pretty quick outfield (you wondered, given the prevailing temperature, if there was a touch of ice in the surface!). Add in a boundary to the grandstand side of Edgbaston proportions and Somerset’s hopes of a 60-5 morning session were dashed before we even reached the end of the first hour.

Somerset’s opening pair, Craig Overton and Josh Davey accounted for the first two wickets to fall but they would have been hoping for better than 1-26 and 1-23 respectively from their opening spells. Lewis Gregory’s introduction and a significant improvement from deLange brought the scoring rate under control as evidenced by two very close run-out opportunities as the Middlesex batsmen sought to rotate the strike. But at lunch 99-2 was far from what we had all hoped for from the first session. 

Much of Somerset’s introspection over lunch though will have focussed on their out-cricket. Even allowing for the icy conditions, James Hildreth and Craig Overton’s dropped catches at first and second slip were ones you’d expect to be taken by the standards of previous years.

The sunshine of the morning session and its brisk scoring gave way to something much more attritional after the break. With the sun failing to show up Somerset’s bowlers settled into a more controlled length on a surface that appeared to be more placid. Abell and Kerr’s frustration must have been that the bowlers were unable to sustain long periods of control with too many “four balls”, allowing the pressure on the Middlesex batsmen to be relieved.

Middlesex garnered 109-2 in the afternoon session with Robson continuing serenely beyond his hundred, Eskinazi and White the departing batsmen. By the tea interval, Jack Leach had settled into his work and while understandably not posing a threat with turn or bounce, was able to build pressure, which resulted in White being caught at slip just before tea.

A wicket early in the evening session when Josh Davey got Andersson caught behind promised a fightback but Simpson supported Robson well without ever threatening a significant contribution. Leach continued his excellent supporting role. The final part of the session with a new ball in Overton and Gregory’s hands under dark skies and increasingly powerful floodlight began with Gregory removing Simpson caught at the wicket.

Two overs later Gregory got Robson who having been dropped at first and second slip was well held by the skipper at third. 263-7. Gregory picked up a fourth removing Helm before the close but Somerset continued to put down catches which if held would have enabled them to wrap up the innings before the close. While some latitude has to be given to the difficult conditions there is no doubt Somerset were below their usual exemplary standards in the field. 

The outcome of this game will almost certainly be determined by whether Somerset’s batsmen bat like Sam Robson or the rest of Middlesex’s line up. Robson was the difference between the two sides and was responsible for Middlesex’s apparent advantage after day one. How significant were those two drops in the slips in the morning when Robson was in the 20s and 30s?