Day 1 of the Bob Willis Trophy Final done and dusted and it’s honours even between Somerset and Essex, as play was abandoned with Somerset 119-4.
Eddie Byrom’s timely unbeaten half-century for the Cidermen was matched by Essex new-ball pairing Jamie Porter and Sam Cook – the latter removing the two Somerset opener.
Some early jousting and a few quick jabs, but still too soon to call this one in any meaningful way.
The rain played its part, limiting the sides to 44 overs; a truncated day to the start of the finale to a shortened season.
Cricket’s been a ray of light for many during a dark summer. Fitting then that under the greyest of skies, and with the floodlights beaming down almost from the off, last year’s top two went into battle at the Home of Cricket.
This fixture is a fine advert from county cricket, both sides being packed with home-grown talent. Eight Academy graduates on display for Somerset with Essex going one better.
With strong seam attacks up their sleeves, it looked the perfect day to bowl. Win the toss and stick them in. The coin fell in Tom Westley’s favour and out trudged Ben Green and Tom Lammonby.
As they’ve done so successfully for the past three years, Porter and Cook took the new ball.
Cook drew first blood, rapping the in-form Lammonby LBW before the scorers had been troubled.
The opener played around one and the ball cannoned into pad. His march to the Pavilion began before the finger was raised to give the seamer his 100th first-class victim.
At the other end Green was watchful and alongside skipper Tom Abell set about calming a few Westcountry nerves.
Abell has led from the front with the bat, and already has two hundred to his name in the competition.
He looked in fine touch again here but having crunched Aaron Beard through the covers off the back foot for four, he fell the following ball.
Attempting to flick one to fine leg, the ball connected with bat, ballooned off the thigh pad and Adam Wheater sprung across to his left to take a fine one-handed catch.
Green was growing in confidence having driven Porter down the ground for his first boundary, before flashing to a Cook delivery.
With early nicks falling short of the slips, the cordon stepped up a yard and this one flew passed Dan Lawrence at slip and down to the vacant third man boundary before the fielder had moved.
But Green’s luck didn’t last long, Cook using the slope to his advantage to one through the gate. At 52-3 and Somerset were in a bit of trouble.
The ship needed steadying again and up stepped Byrom. It’s been a frustrating year for the left-hander who has made 18 or more six times in nine knocks but failed to pass 30.
All that changed today. Shortly before lunch he took a shine to Beard, claiming three boundaries in an over. Each fine shots; a flick off the hips, a booming drive back down the ground and a sumptuous cover drive.
The inevitable downpour came as the players left the field for lunch and they didn’t remerge until 2.30.
After a couple of hours with their feet up Cook and Porter came out firing, beating the bat regularly and conceding precious little.
With just four runs coming from six overs the pressure was mounting. Something had to give, and so it proved when after 27 straight dot balls the breakthrough came.
Having sent Paul Walter to deep-backward square as a decoy, Porter pitched one up, George Bartlett wafted and Alistair Cook held on at first slip.
The rain came again soon after giving the Essex pacemen another chance to rest their legs.
When play resumed shortly after 5pm it seemed Somerset had a tricky hour to negotiate. A potentially match defining 14 overs.
But as it turned out the heavens opened again, although not before Byrom brought up his half-century with another glorious straight drive. Play was abandoned shortly afterwards with Somerset 119-4 and Byrom 51*. Cook finished with 2-38 from 18 overs, while Porter and Beard had one each.