Cricket: Essex strike on rain-hit day at Somerset
PUBLISHED: 17:01 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:01 23 September 2019
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Sam Cook and Simon Harmer struck double blows for Essex before rain washed out play with only 27.5 overs bowled on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship title decider against Somerset at Taunton.
The home side, needing to win to overtake their opponents and claim the pennant for the first time, had progressed to 75-4 after winning the toss on a worn pitch, with James Hildreth making 32 and skipper Tom Abell 24 not out.
Seamer Cook had figures of 2-5 from 8.5 overs, reward for two probing spells from the Somerset Pavilion End, while off-spinner Harmer bowled 10 overs from the River End, turning the ball from the start and taking 2-24.
With the pitch looking certain to favour spin increasingly as the match progressed, it was no surprise when Abell elected to bat first on an overcast morning.
But Somerset's top order have struggled all season and they were soon in trouble again at 14-2 as Cook made early inroads.
His first over saw Murali Vijay, yet to post a significant score since being signed for the hosts' final three Championship games, brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Adam Wheater low down, diving in front of first slip.
Opening partner Steve Davies departed lbw in Cook's second over, leaving Abell and Hildreth to try and lay the foundation for a decent total.
At 27-2 after eight overs, the floodlights were turned on and Essex introduced Harmer, who immediately found plenty of assistance from both over and around the wicket.
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Hildreth's response was typically positive and, with Abell showing sound technique, the pair brought the fifty up as Cook's opening spell ended with figures of 2-2 from six overs, which included four maidens.
Harmer was causing problems for both batsmen, but Somerset seemed to be recovering from their poor start when the total reached 61-2 in the 21st over.
Then Hildreth, who had hit five fours, played back to a delivery from Harmer, bowling around the wicket, and was trapped lbw by a ball that turned sharply to elude his defensive shot.
Two balls later Tom Banton was beaten and rapped on the pads in front of his stumps to give Harmer, then bowling over the wicket, another success and at 61-4, Somerset were back in the mire.
Abell continued to look more at ease than his colleagues and Essex briefly tried spin at both ends, with Aron Nijjar sending down two overs, before Cook returned.
George Bartlett looked more at home against seam than Harmer's turn, but had to battle hard to help Abell chisel out 14 runs before the rain came.
Umpires Rob Bailey and Alex Wharf took the players off at 12.15pm, quickly announcing an early lunch, and what started as light drizzle soon became persistent rain.
At the start of the lunch interval former Somerset chief executive Peter Anderson and president Brian Rose made a special presentation to Marcus Trescothick to mark his 27 years with the club.
The former England opener announced some time ago that he would be retiring at the end of the season and received a framed collection of photographs to warm applause from an appreciative crowd.