There were some ructions down in the West Country at the start of India's tour. They might have been a bit like Claud Cockburn's old headline of the Thirties, "Small earthquake, not many dead", but ructions they were none the less.
Whether they conspired to affect India's batting – when they were allowed to bat on the second day of their tour match against Somerset – is unlikely. But the Indians performed woefully, losing their first six wickets for 76, one more than Somerset lost in making 425.
The first four fell to the veteran left-arm seamer Charl Willoughy. But the wicket everybody wanted went to a 19-year-old South African all-rounder, Craig Meschede, who had Sachin Tendulkar caught behind. It was Meschede's first wicket in first-class cricket, in only his fifth over. He has a tale to tell his grandchildren.
Gautam Gambhir, India's acting captain, went first, followed by the 21-year-old Abhinav Mukund, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh. Then Tendulkar fell. He had survived a couple of excitable lbw shouts before he drove at Meschede's fourth ball and edged behind. The reserve wicketkeeper, Wriddhiman Saha, went almost immediately after. At 90 for 6 India's house was tumbling down.
Tendulkar, Gambhir and Yuvraj have not had an innings since late May, and that was in the Indian Premier League. Small wonder that their coach, Duncan Fletcher, tried to amend the conduct of the match to ensure, by whatever means, that they got as much cricket as possible.
India wanted 13 or even 14 a side. Somerset quite rightly declined, because they were anxious to preserve the match's first-class status. Fletcher also suggested circumventing the toss, so India could bat. Somerset quite rightly declined, because that would have been contravening the laws of the game. Then Fletcher wondered if Somerset might declare their first innings, after the second day was delayed by rain. Somerset quite rightly declined, because they wanted to make the match as proper as possible.
Fletcher was doing only what he thought was best for his team, before the First Test at Lord's on Thursday. When he was coach of England, he often asked for 13 or 14 a side, diluting the status of games.
It is entirely probable that a healthy crowd, who waited patiently through several squalls, might have preferred an overnight declaration. They had come to watch Tendulkar bat, not Chris Jones, for all his promise. They were made to wait. Jones and Arul Suppiah came out to resume their partnership and India had to bowl another 21 overs, which they did in as perfunctory a fashion as on the first day.
Somerset added 96 for the loss of Suppiah, for a career-best 156. Jones made his second fifty in as many matches and played pleasantly against largely unthreatening bowling. The county reached 425 for 3 from 96 overs, by which time everybody had had enough.
Gambhir started at a gallop before he edged Willoughby behind. Mukund was leg before, clearly at odds with the umpire, and Dravid edged a drive to second slip. Tendulkar unfurled a couple of sumptuous back-foot cover drives and survived appeals from Alfonso Thomas and Peter Trego, which denied them a story for the ages. Meschede had his.