Mark Wood makes impressive Championship comeback on crazy opening day in Taunton

The opening day at Taunton saw wickets galore as Mark Wood made a solid comeback to County Championship cricket

Mark Wood makes impressive Championship comeback on crazy opening day in Taunton
Mark Wood celebrates a Somerset wicket (image source: Getty via Cricinfo)

On his return to County Championship cricket, England’s Mark Wood impressed at Taunton, helping Durham to dismiss Somerset for just 184 in 41.1 overs on a frantic day where 17 wickets fell.

Somerset had earlier won the toss, and decided to bat first on their home deck in a decision which backfired tremendously as their batsman gave their wickets away and were all-out midway through the afternoon session.

Wood’s spell of seven overs cost Durham just 24 runs and produced three wickets as the England paceman made his long-awaited comeback to red ball cricket.

In a game which is moving rapidly, Somerset recovered well after being dismissed so cheaply, taking seven wickets as the spin duo of Jack Leach and Roelof van der Merwe took advantage of a turning Taunton wicket on day one.

Seven wickets fall in opening session as Somerset’s decision to bat first backfires horrendously

From the moment Tom Abell flicked Graham Onions’ leg-side loosener to Stuart Poynter to fall for a duck in the 2nd over, Somerset were up against it.

Accompanying Onions with the new ball was Chris Rushworth, and he soon got in on the action. With the first ball of his second over, Rushworth found the edge of the in-form Marcus Trescothick who fell for six and gave Poynter his second grab of the morning to leave Somerset reeling at 6-2.

It was the dream start for a Durham side who had been thrown into disarray before the day’s play, when both captain Paul Collingwood (calf) and Jack Burnham (illness) had to pull out of the playing XI, meaning Gordon Muchall was to drive down from the North East having been given a late call-up, eventually arriving sometime during the afternoon session on the opening day.

James Hildreth in full flow during his innings of 34 (image source: getty via cricinfo)

A solid if unspectacular half-century partnership followed between Somerset captain Chris Rogers and James Hildreth before both fell in quick succession.

The former Australian opener Rogers was first to go, driving loosely at a delivery from Paul Coughlin to lose his wicket for 30, before Wood picked up his first scalp of the day with just his sixth delivery. Having dropped the same man in the previous Coughlin over, a pacy-wide delivery accounted for Hildreth, with the Somerset batsman playing the ball onto his own stumps to fall for 34.

The collapse was now in full flow, and after Jim Allenby was caught-behind off Coughlin for 11, van der Merwe became Wood’s second victim for a duck, edging through to Scott Borthwick who took a smart catch at second slip.

In the final over before lunch, Wood had his third wicket and in doing so had left the home side in tatters at 115-7 after Peter Trego’s reckless drive at a wide delivery ended up with the ball cannoning back into his off-stump.

Somerset’s counter-attack falls short as they gift Durham wickets to sum-up dismal batting performance

After the lunch break, Somerset launched a counter-attack through Ryan Davies and Craig Overton, with the latter having earlier been the man to bring up the home side’s 100 to the sound of ironic cheers from a healthy Taunton crowd.

Adding 35 runs in the first five overs following lunch, Somerset had wrestled back some of the impetus, but old habits weren’t about to die hard and they were soon back to gifting Durham’s bowlers their wickets.  

First to go was the run-shy Davies who has struggled with the bat in his first season in the West Country following his move from Kent. With the likes of Adam Wheater, Phil Mustard and Steve Davies potentially available as keeper-batsmen for Somerset next season, Davies’ tally of 158 runs in 12 County Championship innings to date is going to need to increase exponentially over the next month if he is to remain as the first-choice option in 2017.

In one of his most impressive knocks in Somerset colours so far, Davies dispatched Coughlin for a pair of maximums, before trying to repeat the trick off of Onions, only to completely rue that decision moments later. Taking on the short ball, Davies completely mistimed his pull-shot with the ball going straight up in the air and into the gleeful hands of Mark Stoneman to fall for a fluent 31 from 32 balls.

The wicket of Overton was to follow in the next over after he was bowled by Rushworth for the team’s top score of 42, with Tim Groenewald then the last man out 20 deliveries later after slogging the same bowler straight down Adam Hickey’s throat at mid-on.

The final total of 184 in 41.1 overs was perhaps higher than Somerset’s feeble batting efforts had deserved, yet the story of the innings was that of the return of Wood who’s injury woes up to now have limited the England quick to just 33 first-class fixtures in six seasons.

Durham lose advantage as Somerset turn to spin early in the piece

Having lost all ten of their wickets to seam, it came as a slight surprise to see Rogers turn to left-arm spinner Leach in the 11th over of Durham’s reply, but before long there was spin from both ends as Somerset’s decision at the toss finally started to make sense.

Durham, and Stoneman in particular, had raced away at the start of their innings, with the recently-announced Surrey signing scoring 35 from the team total of 38 before he became the first victim to spin when edging Leach’s fifth delivery off the inside edge of his bat to Trescothick who was stationed at leg slip.

With a career-best in first-class cricket of 4/69, former Protea, now Dutch international, Roelof van der Merwe is far from the most feared spinner on the county circuit, but at a sun-kissed Taunton he was unplayable at times. In the space of 12 overs, Durham fell from 58-1 to 73-5 as the left-arm duo worked their magic.

England hopeful Scott Borthwick, who, like Stoneman is rumoured to be on Surrey’s radar, played a poor slog sweep off van der Merwe straight into the hands of Hildreth at backward square leg to fall for 16, before Durham captain Keaton Jennings gave Trescothick his 498th first-class catch, again positioned as leg slip.

After tea, the wickets continued to tumble, with Michael Richardson first to fall for a duck having edged Leach through to Allenby, and Poynter then following three overs later for seven when he slapped a short ball to van der Merwe straight to Rogers at cover.

Having arrived at the ground during tea following his long drive down, Gordon Muchall strode to the wicket at seven, and only the faintest of inside edges helped him survive his first delivery. It wasn’t long though before he was dismissed for 13, after he was trapped LBW to a Leach delivery which barely bounced off a length to leave Durham 102-6.

The young duo of Adam Hickey and Paul Coughlin then showed real grit in helping Durham move towards parity. Their partnership of 39 didn't come without a couple of edges, but the pair perservered on a tough wicket, sharing 12 overs at the crease before Coughlin was castled by Overton for 30. 

Wood headed to the crease and helped see Durham through to the close alongside Hickey, ending the evening session unbeaten on 11, with the visitors set to return on day two 30 runs behind their hosts with three first innings wickets remaining.