Surrey 382 for 7 (Burns 113, Jacks 88) lead Somerset 180 (Worrall 3-28, J Overton 3-34, Atkinson 3-40) by 202 runs
Somerset supporters casting their eyes skywards in dismay at Surrey’s strengthening grip on this match could always find solace in the beauty of the peregrine falcons wheeling overhead. The falcons nesting at Taunton Minster, across the town, are rearing four fledglings this summer and in the past week or so have begun teaching them to fly. They rested on the floodlight pylons periodically as Surrey built a commanding lead below them, awaiting a fast-food delivery before embarking upon the return journey.
Nature Notes aside, news in the West Country was not as uplifting. Somerset had a day of toil as Surrey, with the authority of Championship leaders, turned their overnight 56 for 1 into 382 for 7. Rory Burns completed his second Championship hundred of the summer in his recognizable, idiosyncratic style and Will Jacks, who played the most attractive innings of the day, should have made the second of his first-class career only to be bowled through a sizeable gate, for 88, by Marchant de Lange’s inswinger.
The casualties from Jamie Overton’s helmet-hitting escapade on the opening day had mounted overnight. de Lange had been summoned from Abergavenny when Craig Overton suffered delayed concussion symptoms; Overton will be reassessed on Tuesday to determine whether he can play in Somerset’s sell-out Blast derby against Gloucestershire on Friday. Kasey Aldridge, a former England U-19 all-rounder from Bristol, had already replaced Josh Davey, another concussion victim, and revealed a good, repeatable action with the suggestion of more pace to come.
Burns is less peregrine falcon than wryneck, another bird also seen in gardens in these parts, slightly larger than a sparrow and possessing an ability to twist its neck almost 360 degrees. The Burns neck jerk to the leg side as the bowler approaches is also quite something, presumably designed to stop him falling over to the leg side, before he shifts his head above the top of off with the bowler about to deliver. Add his mane sweeping from the back of his helmet and it makes him one of the most distinctive batters on the circuit. If birdwatching and cricket-watching ever merge in some dystopian future [I think they just have… Ed], he might one day find an army of twitchers descending upon his every innings.
Cricket’s wry neck might have attracted wry remarks during 32 Tests (his average of 30 might be modest but it does bear comparison with any England opener of recent vintage), but he remains a highly effective batter at county level and he dominated the morning session, reaching 50 with a hooked six against Peter Siddle and making busy use of a good batting surface as Somerset’s bowlers, who tend to hit the pitch, found little of the swing available to their Surrey counterparts on the opening day.
Nine Surrey batters currently average more than 40, a benchmark only achieved by two Somerset players – and one of them, the Australian Matt Renshaw, is not playing in this match – which even in favourable batting conditions does not auger well for their chances of saving the game.
One player below that 40 average is Jacks, whose success remains largely in white-ball formats, and yet his stylish, upright approach insists that he has the ability to transfer his skills to the red-ball game. He, too, was struck on the helmet, this time by Siddle, armed with the second new ball, when he was 42, and a booming off-drive, on 45, immediately after tea, almost caused his downfall when it landed at de Lange’s feet on the half volley and left the big man limping and stretching.
Perhaps that contributed to a wilder final spell from de Lange who had bowled with commendable accuracy earlier in the day. He is an immensely strong man as became clear on Somerset’s pre-season media day when, with rain falling, he helped to clear away, carrying a bench, one-handed, above his head while others were struggling away in pairs.
Surrey were also disrupted with Hashim Amla unable to resume his innings because of illness. Ben Geddes helped to settle their day before edging de Lange to first slip. Aldridge claimed a maiden first-class wicket that his persistence deserved when Jamie Smih edged to first slip. Burns departed soon afterwards, perhaps unwisely playing back to Roelof van der Merwe’s first ball and edging the left-arm spinner to first slip.
A dubious lbw decision against Cameron Steel again gave Somerset hope, but Jacks and Jordan Clark (dropped at slip on 30 off Tom Lammonby) batted them out of the game. Jamie Overton made a late appearance, but this time his damage was limited to the shabby old sightscreen with a clubbed six off van der Merwe. If Somerset are to save this game, their own fledglings must learn to fly.