An early term report on Australia’s progress might say: “Good, room for improvement, none for complacency.” The tourists are steamrollering Somerset in the first match of the Ashes tour but Somerset have suffered similar crushings already this season by their Championship peers.
The county, at fullish strength, will have been embarrassed that their second innings almost fell away as tamely as their first, this time without the security of 300 runs already on the board. Australia must feel that their world has turned round in a week.
Some late-order hitting of the sort that should always be a feature of these happy occasions salvaged something after the county’s collapse, during which five wickets fell for 24 runs. The Australians will fancy their chances of completing their pursuit of the 260 runs they need to win today but it is not quite the formality it looked like when Somerset were 204 for 9.
With little else he could do, or that was worth doing, the seasoned all-rounder Peter Trego muscled his way to a freewheeling 60, which featured 10 fours in its 53 balls. It meant that the Australians did not have everything their own way and exposed some of the frailties which even a new-found spring in the step could not wholly conceal.
Buffeting some under-performing county chaps is a bit different from assailing England in a Test match, though there was plenty to respect about the way some of the visiting bowlers went about the work late in the day. The mood among the players is suddenly and patently different, prompted almost entirely by the removal of Mickey Arthur and the arrival of Darren Lehmann as coach.
The match seemed neatly poised when Australia declared their first innings at 321 for 5, one run ahead having had the batting they wanted. Phil Hughes had taken his overnight 44 to 76, and the time at the crease will be invaluable.
For the second time in the match, the Australians began weakly with the new ball as Marcus Trescothick and Nick Compton set about them. Trescothick is having a lean season by the extraordinary standards he has set for the county since he played the last of his 76 Tests seven years ago.
He has averaged close to 60 in that period, happily cosy in his surroundings, and if he misses the big time, it has never looked liked it. This season has not gone quite so well yet, and after merrily biffing a few, he casually flirted at James Pattinson outside off stump.
Pattinson was again extremely quick in patches and the feeling grows that he could have a profound influence on the Test series. He looks capable of getting among England’s top order, though it was in his later spells that he was more impressive.
He had the first-innings centurion, Chris Jones, lbw with a ball the batsman was late on, and afterwards removed Craig Kieswetter’s off stump as the batsman shouldered arms. It is invariably a dramatic sight, the batsman playing no shot as the stumps cartwheel away.
Mitchell Starc, the left-arm fast bowler, also atoned for earlier discrepancies in direction and was a sight to behold over and round the wicket late in the afternoon. He bowled both Alex Barrow and Craig Meschede with vicious full-length balls that moved late.
Australia will be concerned about Peter Siddle, who is wildly out of sorts and down on pace. Nathan Lyon, the spinner, was treated disdainfully by Trego in the evening. England’s coach, Andy Flower, and their captain, Alastair Cook, were at Wimbledon, which might have been neither as informative nor as entertaining as a day in Taunton.
Tour match, third day of four: Australians, with all second-innings wickets in hand, require 224 runs to beat Somerset
Somerset won toss
SOMERSET First Innings 320 (Jones 130, Compton 81, Hildreth 66, Pattinson 4-56, Starc 4-33)
AUSTRALIANS First Innings (Overnight 266-4)
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
P J Hughes not out 76 0 12 117 163
†B J Haddin lbw b Overton 38 2 5 66 60
J P Faulkner not out 22 0 2 42 50
Extras (b1 lb12 w1 nb6) 20
Total(for 5 dec, 75.1 overs) 321
Fall 1-4, 2-78, 3-147, 4-212, 5-266.
Did not bat P M Siddle, J L Pattinson, M A Starc, N M Lyon.
Bowling J Overton 16-0-89-2, G M Hussain 13-1-55-1, C A J Meschede 17-4-67-2, P D Trego 7-2-21-0, G H Dockrell 22.1-3-76-0.
SOMERSET Second Innings
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
M E Trescothick c Haddin b Pattinson 32 0 5 58 72
*N R D Compton lbw b Lyon 34 0 7 68 114
C R Jones lbw b Pattinson 1 0 0 11 17
J C Hildreth c Hughes b Lyon 75 2 11 95 118
C Kieswetter b Pattinson 18 0 4 35 46
†A W Barrow b Starc 8 0 1 42 43
P D Trego c Khawaja b Faulkner 60 0 10 53 81
C A J Meschede b Lyon 0 0 0 9 8
G H Dockrell b Starc 0 0 0 6 6
J Overton c Haddin b Siddle 6 0 1 11 23
G M Hussain not out 12 0 2 25 38
Extras (b4 lb2 w3 nb5) 14
Total(68 overs) 260
Fall 1-68, 2-72, 3-87, 4-141, 5-180, 6-180, 7-182, 8-183, 9-204.
Bowling P M Siddle 14-3-55-1, J P Faulkner 9-2-24-1, M A Starc 13-3-41-2, J L Pattinson 13-2-61-3, N M Lyon 19-6-73-3.
AUSTRALIA NS Second Innings
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
E J M Cowan not out 14 0 1 28 32
U T Khawaja not out 18 0 4 20 32
Extras (lb4) 4
Total(for 0, 8 overs) 36
To bat: S R Watson, P J Hughes, *M J Clarke, J P Faulkner, †B J Haddin, P M Siddle, J L Pattinson, M A Starc, N M Lyon.
Bowling J Overton 4-0-11-0, C A J Meschede 3-0-13-0, G H Dockrell 1-0-8-0.
Umpires M A Eggleston and D J Millns.