WHEN 16 wickets fall on the first day of a match that cannot possibly last until the fourth, one might assume that the pitch requires judicial scrutiny. But there could hardly be two more experienced pairs of eyes gazing at it than those of Dickie Bird and David Shepherd, and in their opinion the Taunton strip is bouncy but fair.
Andy Caddick exploited that bounce, taking nine wickets in the match, and this is one of those occasions when he really does look like an England bowler. He now has a tally of 64 wickets this season, and since a charm offensive is out of the question all he can do to book an Ashes place is to keep bowling like this. With the exception of Peter Bowler the Somerset batsmen squandered the potential advantage that Caddick and Graham Rose - who shared the first-innings wickets - earned for them.
That Somerset got close to parity first time round was mainly due to his diligence, and when in mid-afternoon the match was drifting away from the home side it was the skipper's occasional off-breaks that brought them back into contention. For Northamptonshire the off-spinner Jason Brown also found the sport in the wicket useful to his tweakers, and he joined Caddick and Rose with a five-wicket haul.
When Northamptonshire began their second innings before lunch Caddick took up where he had left off on Friday, policeman's feet thumping, rigid elbows pumping. Two wickets in two balls heralded the interval, Bowler leaping like a dolphin at gully to claim the valuable scalp of Mal Loye.
With runs at a premium the repair work to the Northants innings carried out by Kevin Curran, Tony Penberthy and David Ripley could still prove decisive. Caddick brought Somerset back into the match in mid-innings when he persuaded Curran to waft outside off stump before bowling the ball of the day to David Sales.
Pitching on off and very fast, it boomed into the batsman and was taken by Mike Burns wide on the leg-side. But in going beyond 200 Northants have asked Somerset to make the highest total of the match to win this intriguing encounter.
l Bottom-placed Essex came in for some heavy punishment from the Hampshire batmen at Portsmouth where a century from Robin Smith helped the home side build up a massive first innings lead of 349.Reuse content