Worcestershire. . . . . .142
GRIM things may be happening on Test-match grounds, but out in the shires some merry cricket is to be seen, not least from Somerset who have, in their new overseas professional Mushtaq Ahmed and fast bowler Andre van Troost, entertainers of high degree.
Mushy first gave a twist of pepper to a Somerset tail that might have been expected to succumb easily in the cloud and sun of yesterday morning. Mushtaq's 36 off 37 balls, including a six and five fours, was the kind of innings that drives opposing captains and bowlers to vast oaths.
He was tantalisingly close to several good-length balls from Kenneth Benjamin but was always alert enough to swing lustily at anything short or overpitched.
Somerset added 66 in another 17 overs, van Troost smashing and bashing in defiance of all coaches, before Worcestershire, due mainly to Benjamin's 6 for 70, finally got rid of them, but a pleasant morning was disrupted further.
A lively opening by van Troost and Jason Kerr removed Philip Weston and Adam Seymour before lunch, by which time Mushtaq had found a length.
In the first over after lunch he had Damien D'Oliveira caught behind off a quicker delivery; two overs later Gavin Haynes misread the spin and was caught at short leg. Graham Rose then torpedoed the innings by beating Tim Curtis's defence after the captain had contributed 35 to a total of 60 for 5. A follow-on was a distinct possibility.
Mushtaq pinned Stuart Lampitt with a top-spinner at 74, Chris Tavare recalling van Troost's speed as the clouds gathered, but Steven Rhodes was able to save Worcestershire from real embarrassment with a leg-side four off the Dutchman that took the score past the critical 86.
Andy Payne, like Kerr a Lancastrian, took two of the remaining wickets, his first at this level, as Somerset won a lead of 94, after Benjamin showed that he, too, was a proper No 11, grinning broadly as he threw his bat at Mushtaq's sinful flight.
Somerset were batting again by 4.25, the experienced Phil Newport setting up an interesting last day, on a pitch of now variable lift, by removing Rob Turner and Tavare in one over before the drizzle arrived.