Cricket: Depleted Somerset put to the test

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The Independent Online
Somerset 170-7 v Worcestershire

REAL Championship contenders have to win while their leading players are engaged elsewhere; Yorkshire, Surrey and Essex all won titles when contributing three, four, even five players to England. Somerset, if they are to be taken seriously, will have to take near to maximum points without Andrew Caddick and Mark Lathwell.

As Worcestershire are minus Graeme Hick and Richard Illingworth, this fixture represents an early examination of Somerset's resources. Play could not start until 2.15 and that time was achieved only by the efforts of Worcester Fire Brigade whose noble lads pumped 5,000 gallons of water off the outfield (give 'em a rise, Kenneth Clarke) after which the field rolled out beautifully and the pitch proved to be firm and quicker than expected. Tim Curtis, when he sent in Somerset, must have expected a little more help.

He is also handicapped by the fact that England have taken his two spinners - and Yorkshire filched the other last winter - so it was true to say that Worcestershire's attack lacked the spice of life. The left-arm Chris Tolley, who seems to have added a yard since last summer, had a sharp opening spell in which he removed Robert Turner, snapped up at short leg.

Richard Harden's attempt to glance Kenneth Benjamin was neatly anticipated by Steven Rhodes. By then Chris Tavare had arrived. He seems to have been around this ground almost as long as the Cathedral and is almost as irremovable. He savaged any loose ball and all but decapitated his fellow captain at short leg.

Tavare provoked Benjamin, in his second spell, into a genuine West Indian bouncer and by the time Benjamin, with a slower ball, had conned him into lofting to mid-off, Somerset, at 148 for 5, were out of crisis if not out of the wood.