Hampshire lost nine wickets for 115 runs on the first day at the Ageas Bowl, as Somerset’s Craig Overton impressed following his England snub.
His side’s coach Matthew Maynard tweeted his dismay at Eoin Morgan’s “broken word” on Sunday, as the 23-year-old bowler was omitted from the side to face South Africa at Cardiff despite the captain’s pre-series promise that all uncapped squad members would make debuts.
But the older of the Overton twins bowled with the raw pace and hostility of a seasoned international seamer with the pink ball, in a performance that cast the mind back to his hat-trick against Middlesex in the season’s curtain-raiser in Abu Dhabi.
While Overton’s figures were unremarkable—2-35 in 18 overs—he was economical throughout, created chances regularly and provided the important breakthrough after tea.
After a subdued first session, in which Hampshire’s opening pair of Jimmy Adams and Liam Dawson built steadily without ever looking settled, Overton’s hostile spell was rewarded with two wickets in quick succession.
First, Adams—having been beaten all ends up by the previous delivery—pushed at a delivery outside his off stump and edged to first slip for 47. Then, the out-of-form Rilee Roussouw miscued a pull shot off a fiery short ball, top-edging his stroke to short fine-leg, where ‘keeper Steve Davies had run and completed an excellent catch.
The South African, signed controversially as a Kolpak player for 2017, has now scored 34 runs in his last eight innings, of which five have been ducks. Surely Tom Alsop, who wintered with the Lions, must be close to forcing him out of the side despite his international experience.
The visiting seam attack looked fired up after the first interval, and after Overton’s snorting bouncer had shot past James Vince’s grill, Lewis Gregory found some movement off the seam to trap Dawson leg-before for 53.
While the first three wickets were born out of good bowling, Hampshire’s lower-middle order got themselves out. George Bailey suffered a brain-fade, casually pushing Tim Groenewald to mid-wicket for just four to leave the hosts four wickets down at the dinner interval.
Then, as the floodlights came on, Jack Leach’s probing line and length from the Hotel End was finally rewarded. The England Lions spinner dragged his length slightly back to lure the rugged Ervine into a cut, which he bottom-edged to Davies, before the same pair combined as Vince (47) strangled down the leg side just as he was looking set.
When Groenewald bowled Ian Holland, Somerset put themselves right in the ascendancy before the new ball was taken, and soon after, Gareth Berg was plumb lbw to Gregory without ever getting going.
The impressive all-rounder then fired one through Lewis McManus’ defences, before a couple of slashes from Wheal lead to the securing of a batting point and a declaration soon before close in an attempt to expose Somerset’s top order to some tricky conditions.
But Marcus Trescothick and debutant Eddie Byrom—born some four years after his partner’s first Somerset appearance—successfully negotiated the final six overs to leave the visitors 18 without loss at close.
As well as Overton, left-armer Leach was excellent, holding up an end magnificently as he recovered from a disappointing performance last week in the ‘A’ Test against South Africa to return figures of 2-54 in a 24-over effort.
Indeed, the fact that both those two and Gregory had played with a pink ball for the MCC in the Champion County fixture this March might have had some affect, whether due to their increased knowledge of how the ball would behave, or some psychological advantage over their comparatively inexperienced opposition.
The innings of Adams, Dawson and Vince will have particularly frustrated Hampshire coach Giles White. The three all built well and looked to be settling at the crease just as they were dismissed—if just one of them had pushed on to a score above Dawson’s 53, it might have been a very different story for the hosts.
Somerset, meanwhile, were delighted with their performance on the first day, and will be hoping that the forecast of rain interruptions across the next three days proves erroneous. The Taunton outfit are without a win in the Championship this season, and know that a failure to win here will heighten their relegation fears.
Hampshire’s hope that the draw of free entry to the post-dinner session would pull in an after-work crowd was misguided: while the novelty of a pink ball drew in a handful more spectators than usual, the Ageas Bowl remained largely as empty as it was for the whole of last season, when no Division One county drew in fewer spectators.