Gregory, van der Merwe fill their boots after Barker’s six-wicket aperitif
Somerset 360 (Gregory 107, van der Merwe 88, Barker 6-72) vs Hampshire
Spectators were finally back at Taunton and on World Cider Day they drank in a day’s cricket which was suitably inebriating. The return must have been as uplifting as they had hoped that it would be. There was little need to turn to the scrumpy when cricket as enterprising was perfectly capable of bringing a wonderfully warm and exaggerated feeling that all was well with the world.
Gregory took a century from 135 balls, reaching it on the stroke of six o’clock with the floodlights on, as Kyle Abbott offered up a tired bouncer which he pulled emphatically through square leg for four. Twice dropped at slip, he had never wavered from his attacking intent. The 1,900 Somerset members allowed in stood to offer vigorous applause, even accompanied by those looking on from the retirement apartments alongside the ground and then rose again when Abbott, his energy almost spent, bowled him for 107 with the second new ball.
Van der Merwe’s 81, from 132 balls, was also quite a contribution. It was his first innings of the summer, quite a warm-up for the T20 Blast to come, and his second-highest score for Somerset and he must also have had a century in mind when he surrendered his wicket, misjudging a single to extra cover and yards short when Brad Wheal’s throw hit direct.
This was the giddiest of stands, ambitions growing with every gulp of air, and drunk in by the most appreciative county crowd in the country who were more eager than ever to applaud every adventurous shot, even those that flew not quite where they had been intended. There can have been no more joyful Championship cricket all season. The day the crowds returned will be remembered with delight in Somerset for many years to come.
This Somerset side delights and frustrates in equal measure. The entire side plays shots like there is no tomorrow which, considering the past few years, seems a decent philosophy to have. They were still smiting at No.11 as Marchant de Lange struck the long-suffering Abbott for successive, gigantic sixes, the first into St James’ churchyard, the second flying many a mile over square leg to the longest boundary.
Somerset are maddening, yet lovable with it; talented yet flawed; a youthful side that takes years off the oldest spectators, encouraging bells to be rung and songs to be sung; a side that may not know much about Somerset’s history, but who perfectly reflect it. They need to see off Hampshire here to strengthen their hold on a top two spot in Group Two, and must do it with both Craig Overton and Jack Leach locked in England’s bio bubble on sanitiser-carrying duties.
Barker is in the second year of a two-year contract with Hampshire after ending a decade of service with Warwickshire. He is the most languid of new-ball bowlers, his approach that is smooth rather than dynamic. But on a responsive surface, with a new ball in his hand he can kill with kindness, and when he did not swing the ball back he angled it across the right-handers with precision. All this in vivid red socks, presumably warning of danger.
By the time the first sanitising break came along after 25 minutes there had only been one scoring stroke. Davies, an emergency opener, was making a decent fist of it. But Barker smoothed his way through the batting order: left-handed Eddie Byrom bowled by one that left him; Tom Abell and James Hildreth edging balls angled across – Hildreth’s shouted “I’m an inswinger” throughout its path but still ended up in the hands of the keeper – and George Bartlett leaving an inswinger that presumably shouted nothing at all.
Somerset fleetingly recovered through Davies and Tom Banton, who is batting as low as No. 7. Davies’s square drives were in trim, Banton, not one to be suppressed by the scoreboard, played with the confidence of a batter who knows T20 is around the corner. Barker’s second spell silenced them, Banton gated by a huge inswinger from around the wicket, Davies pushing disappointingly at an outswinger when looking in command.
By the close things looked very different. Barker still had creditable figures of 6 for 72 but the support seamers had been inconsequential and Abbott, unbelievably for a bowler of his stature, had 1 for 132 in 24 overs. He may wake up stiff and bruised, too, after slipping and falling heavily in his delivery stride in the morning session.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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A total of five Indians are making their Test debuts in this match, their first in almost seven years
Toss England Women opt to bat against India Women
Dunkley, 22, made the XI on the back of an impressive run for the South East Stars at the recent domestic 50-over competition for the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy. Emily Arlott, another breakthrough performer from that tournament, didn’t make the cut as Heather Knight, playing her 100th match as England captain, opted for the pace of Kate Cross instead.
Verma, 17, was previously capped only in T20Is, whereas Rana, 27, returned to an Indian XI after 2016. She was picked for all three formats of the England tour following her performance in the domestic 50-over tournament earlier this year, where she topped the wicket-takers’ chart for the Mithali Raj-led Railways with 18 strikes at an average of 12.66, while scoring 160 runs at a strike rate of 123.07 from the middle order.
India picked three quicks in their line-up, with veteran Jhulan Goswami leading the attack and Shikha Pandey, dropped for the eight-match limited-overs assignment against South Africa at home in March, and Pooja Vastrakar in support roles. India opted for Rana, Sharma and part-timer Harmanpreet Kaur, the vice-captain, to shoulder the spin-bowling responsibilities. Left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht and wristspinner Poonam Yadav sat out.
For England, Georgia Elwiss pipped Fran Wilson to a spot in the XI while Lauren Winfield-Hill slotted in as Tammy Beaumont’s opening partner.
England: 1 Tammy Beaumont, 2 Lauren Winfield-Hill, 3 Heather Knight (capt), 4 Nat Sciver, 5 Amy Jones (wk), 6 Sophia Dunkley, 7 Georgia Elwiss, 8 Katherine Brunt, 9 Anya Shrubsole, 10 Sophie Ecclestone, 11 Kate Cross
India: 1 Smriti Mandhana, 2 Shafali Verma, 3 Punam Raut, 4 Mithali Raj (capt), 5 Harmanpreet Kaur, 6 Deepti Sharma, 7 Sneh Rana, 8 Taniya Bhatia (wk), 9 Jhulan Goswami, 10 Pooja Vastrakar, 11 Shikha Pandey
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
WI vs SA Test series
South Africa created 14 catching chances in the first Test against West Indies and took 13 of them
Notably, ten of the 13 successful grabs were behind the stumps: seven in the slips, two by the wicketkeeper, and one at gully. That’s the region in which South Africa dropped seven catches collectively against Sri Lanka last year and Pakistan earlier this year – five in the slips and two by the wicketkeeper.
He put South Africa’s previous lapses down to changing personnel in the cordon after the retirements of high-profile regulars. “We’ve lost the likes of Faf (du Plessis) and Hashim (Amla), and they played a huge part,” Ontong explained.
“You want to try and get your best slip fielders in positions two and three. That was a key area for us. Aiden and Wiaan were exceptional in this Test. It was a matter of getting them in the right places”
Mulder reacted quickly to pouch the chance off Kyle Mayers’ edge, off Anrich Nortje, which had to be taken low down at third slip, which he has likely cemented as his spot. “You want to try and get your best slip fielders in positions two and three. That was a key area for us,” Ontong said. “Aiden and Wiaan were exceptional in this Test. It was a matter of getting them in the right places.”
Ontong said the coaching staff identified Markram and Mulder as members of the cordon because, “normally good batsmen are good slip fielders, they have good eyes and good reflexes”. They then did specialised work to prepare them for the task: “It’s good to have Mark Boucher (as a coach) who has played a lot of Tests and stood behind the stumps. There’s some great input from him. We do a lot of one-handed stuff, reflex work to sharpen the guys up and so far the guys have responded well.”
So well, that Ontong couldn’t identify any areas that need improving ahead of the second Test on Friday and said South Africa would work to maintain the bar they have set. “It’s difficult to follow a Test match like the first one. We were brilliant in all three departments,” he said. “There’s going to be harder work behind the scenes to make sure we don’t drop standards.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
Ankeet Chavan cleared to resume playing after IPL 2013 spot-fixing ban is reduced to seven years by BCCI
“Whichever opportunity I get to be back at the ground, I will be really eager for that”
In an email accessed by ESPNcricinfo, BCCI interim chief executive Hemang Amin confirmed that Chavan’s ban had effectively ended on September 13, 2020 based on an order received last month. The BCCI ombudsman, the email said, “has restricted the ban imposed on you from life ban to 7 years, with effect from 13 September 2013. In view of the order dated 3 May 2021, the ban imposed on you therefore ended on 13 September, 2020.”
While the ban in principle got over in September 2020, unlike Sreesanth, whose order for a similar term reduction arrived last August, Chavan had to wait till May 3, 2021 to get a copy of the order from the ombudsman. Chavan subsequently requested the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) to apply to the BCCI for a confirmation letter, a requisite for him to return to competitive cricket, which he received on June 15 from Amin.
“The ban has been completely over as of September 2020,” Chavan told PTI on Tuesday, soon after the development. “I am open for whatever (comes) my way. I am really looking forward to getting on the ground as soon as possible.
“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic (Covid-19) and the rains, the grounds would probably be closed but whichever opportunity I get to be back at the ground, I will be really eager for that.”
“I got (a) letter from (the) ombudsman that my ban has been reduced to seven years,” Chavan told PTI earlier this month. “The same as what was given to Sreesanth, but his order came before the end of the ban and mine after the completion of ban. Since I didn’t get that letter, I had to write to MCA requesting them to write to BCCI for that letter.”
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