A full round-up from the first day of play in the LV County Championship match between Surrey and Somerset at The Kia Oval.
A fascinating first day, on a pitch expected to take more spin as the game progresses, saw Somerset’s James Hildreth battle to 107 in a hard-fought 280 for 6 against Surrey at the Kia Oval.
It was Hildreth’s 47th first-class hundred and he was well supported in a fourth wicket stand of 144 in 50 overs by Lewis Goldsworthy, whose gritty three-hour 48 occupied 145 balls.
Hildreth, acting captain in the injury absence of Tom Abell, won an important toss before Somerset set out towards what they hope will be a match-defining first innings total in the final Group 2 fixture before qualification for the end-of-season divisional finale that will decide who wins this year’s LV= Insurance County Championship title.
Somerset must at worst draw here to make sure of Division One status in August and September, while Surrey began the game 22 points behind group leaders Somerset and 17 points adrift of second-placed Gloucestershire (the top two qualify for Division One) and had only a mathematical chance of finishing second.
Indian Test off spinner Ravi Ashwin, signed for this game only as an overseas player replacement for injured New Zealand fast bowler Kyle Jamieson, bowled the first over of the match at the start of a five-over new ball spell and finished with 1 for 70 from 28 overs.
Surrey, indeed, fielded three frontline spinners with off spinner Amar Virdi and slow left-armer Dan Moriarty also sharing 37 overs, while Somerset have England’s Jack Leach in their ranks. But only the odd ball spun markedly on a sluggish surface as Hildreth’s determined partnership with Goldsworthy shaped the opening day.
Surrey, already below-strength due to England one-day calls and injuries to Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes, were further handicapped by an injury suffered in the field by former Somerset fast bowler Jamie Overton and a shoulder problem which limited all-rounder Rikki Clarke to just a spell with the second new ball.
Jordan Clark, though, made an early breakthrough when he bowled Devon Conway for 21 – the New Zealand Test opener inside-edging an attempted drive – and Somerset were an unconvincing 113 for three 20 minutes after lunch after Steven Davies, lbw to Virdi’s second ball, and Tom Lammonby, who shouldered arms to Ashwin’s arm ball and was bowled off stump, had both departed for well-made 42s. Lammonby did once smash a Virdi full toss for six but otherwise it was predominantly attritional cricket throughout.
Hildreth, who hit 13 fours from 211 balls and cut and swept the spinners with excellent judgement, dug deep before an inswinger from the wholehearted Clark took out his off stump as he played no shot 10 minutes from the close.
Goldsworthy and George Bartlett (2) had by then also gone to the second new ball, strangled down the legside by Clark and leg-before to Clarke respectively.
Surrey XI: Burns, Stoneman, Amla, Patel, Burns, Ashwin, Clark, Overton, Clarke, Virdi, Moriarty
Somerset XI: Conway, Davies, Lammonby, Hildreth, Goldsworthy, Bartlett, Green, van der Merwe, Brooks, de Lange, Leach
Once this match is over, Surrey complete their Vitality Blast South Group campaign against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham at 2:30pm on Friday 16th July.