Somerset were given both barrels by Northamptonshire yesterday, a left and a right. The opener Mike Hussey, a left-hander, and Russell Warren, a right-hander, dented Somerset's chances of walking off with the £50,000 on offer for the runners-up spot in the First Division of the County Championship with a record-breaking stand for Northamptonshire against the West Country side.
Their third-wicket partnership of 287 runs in 88 overs had Somerset haring all over the place for more than four hours and would have made that prize money seem as remote as the lottery jackpot as they garnered just one point of the five they need to secure second place for the first time in their history.
From a Somerset point of view it was clearly going to be one of those days when nothing goes right, the sort when the toothpaste squirts out of the wrong end of the tube even with the gentlest of squeezes.
When the home captain Jamie Cox won the toss and Northamptonshire lost two early wickets, Somerset were somewhat lulled into a false sense of security. The pitch was bouncy, the ball was flying past the outside edge to leave the batsmen floundering, and there was every indication that the visitors, who need six more points than Lancashire to avoid relegation, might be plying their trade in the lower division next season.
But by mid-afternoon luck, like the brooding rain clouds, was by-passing Somerset; the pitch had flattened out, the bounce had gone out of the attack and there was a spring in the steps of the century-makers Hussey and Warren.
It was Hussey's fifth century of the summer, his second against Somerset and the 18th of his career. He came here needing 201 to reach 2,000 runs for the season and there was a determined look to his every shot and unwavering concentration as he had a tilt at the target.
Having been missed at slip on 56, he proceeded to drive fluently and confidently throughout the rest of the day, picking up 28 boundaries on the way. By the time bad light drove them off prematurely, the Australian was just nine runs away from his goal.
Warren was even freer with his strokes as he compiled his third century in four matches. It was a good innings, containing two sixes, both off the slow left-armer Ian Blackwell, and 24 boundaries. He departed to a fine catch down the leg side by the wicketkeeper Robbie Turner, but only after his fourth hundred of the season had done plenty of damage.
Somerset, having toiled for precious little, suddenly rediscovered the art of wicket-taking late in the day when Tony Penberthy and Graeme Swann fell victim to the worthy Steffan Jones.
The recent winners of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy should add to their slender haul of points today, but the only certainty would seem to be Hussey becoming the first Northamptonshire player passing 2,000 for the season since Allan Lamb way back in 1981.Reuse content