Alviro Petersen steals limelight on Graeme Smith's Surrey debut

Somerset 344-8 v Surrey

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The Independent Online

The south London locals turned up at The Oval in anticipation of witnessing a South African Test opener make his county debut. However, the toss of a coin meant they spent the day watching the wrong one.

Instead of enjoying Graeme Smith at the crease the Surrey crowd endured Alviro Petersen constructing a century of impressive dimensions on his Somerset debut. It was left to Jade Dernbach's new-ball pyrotechnics to warm a home crowd chilled by Petersen's 167 off 255 balls.

That innings provided the backbone to Somerset's 344 for 8 and, at one stage, threatened to ruin Smith's debut but Dernbach's fizz and late contributions from Stuart Meaker and Zander de Bruyn ensured the day ended honours even.

Petersen has mixed memories of this ground. It was here, back in 2011 for Glamorgan, where he struck his maiden first-class double century. That superlative innings helped earn an international recall that saw him play against England at The Oval last year. On that occasion he registered a duck as South Africa racked up a score of 637 for 2.

It was a duck that brought Petersen to the crease as early as the seventh over. Fellow international opener Nick Compton played on to a fuller delivery from Dernbach. Leaden feet were to blame for the demise of Compton's 18-ball stay and a tentative mindset – unbecoming a Test batsman in Ashes year – was behind his failure.

It is not for his monumental batting alone that Richard Gould, Surrey's chief executive, brought Smith to the club. The fact is no one player has captained in as many Tests as the South African. He made his presence felt when he turned to spin in just the 16th over, around midday, in the middle of an English April. It took Gareth Batty eight balls to justify the gamble, trapping Marcus Trescothick leg-before for 25.

Surrey had to wait until the first over after lunch for the next wicket. Smith tossed the ball to a fired-up Dernbach, a bowler with plenty to prove. James Hildreth had looked composed for his 34 but Dernbach's extra back-bending did for him. After Batty undid Craig Kieswetter's hard work, bringing to an end a 143-run partnership with Petersen, Dernbach returned to light the fuse with the new ball. Jos Butler, eager to upstage Kieswetter with bat and gloves, was halted in his tracks on 19 by the extra pace Dernbach generated with the fresh cherry.

The very next ball the 26-year-old paceman induced an edge from Peter Trego that was well-held by Vikram Solanki. Petersen's ambitions to see out the day were then thwarted by De Bruyn, who trapped the centurion lbw. The next over Meaker discovered some hitherto hidden menace to bowl Jamie Overton and leave Somerset eight down.

The day may have belonged to the wrong South African but thanks to the penetrative excellence of Dernbach, the south London locals who turn up at The Oval will be finally able witness the right one.