Hildy masterclass puts Somerset in charge

A big unbeaten hundred from James Hildreth, who shared valuable partnerships with Azhar Ali, George Bartlett, Steve Davies and Eddie Byrom, saw Somerset to a commanding position against Cardiff MCCU at the Cooper Associates County Ground, where by the close the students trailed by 374 runs with six wickets remaining.

Somerset captain Lewis Gregory won the toss and elected to bat.

Marcus Trescothick, who opened with Azhar Ali, was quickly into the ascendancy and played two classic cover drives to the boundary in the third over. The left hander had moved onto 22 when he was caught at first slip by Joe Ludlow looking to cut Brad Evans.

Hildreth then joined Azhar Ali who square drove Dan Douthwaite to the boundary to see the 50 up. Somerset’s overseas signing shared a second wicket partnership of 55 with Hildreth, but when he had moved onto 22 he got an inside edge onto his stumps to a ball from Yuraj Odedra.

Hildreth continued to look untroubled and took his runs with ease. He eventually saw up the Somerset 100 with a single to square leg off Prem Sisodiya.

By lunch Somerset had moved on to 122 without further loss off 35 overs, Hildreth unbeaten on 46 and Bartlett not out 19.

In the fourth over after the break Hildreth went to his half century when he took a boundary off Evans, his runs coming off 91 balls with nine fours.

In the next over Bartlett, who had moved onto 38, got a bottom edge on to his stumps and was bowled by Evans, ending his third wicket partnership that added 68 with Hildreth.

Somerset’s veteran batsman was in full flow by this stage of the afternoon and he lofted AJ Woodland over mid-wicket for the first maximum of the day, much to the delight of the spectators who were making the most of the early spring sunshine.

Davies was a perfect foil for Hildreth and it was the ‘keeper who took four off Odedra to see the score past 200.

Hildreth continued to make run scoring look easy and duly went to his century – his 43rd for Somerset – with a single off Steven Reingold to mid wicket, his runs coming off 152 balls and including 13 fours and one six.

At the opposite end Davies had helped to add 128 with Hildreth for the fourth wicket but, with his score on 46, he was bowled by Sisodiya.

Eddie Byrom joined Hildreth and between them the two hurried the score along, the new batsman in particular looking to attack. Byrom took three fours off the 82nd over that was bowled by Douthwaite to see Somerset past the 350 mark. When the young left hander took four off Evans to fine leg he saw up his own half century.

With the total on 387 for four off 88 overs, acting skipper Gregory declared, by which time Hildreth was unbeaten on 158 and Byrom was unbeaten on 58 – a new career best for Somerset.

Gregory made an early breakthrough for the hosts when he trapped Reingold lbw for seven with the total on eight in the sixth over. Jack Brooks then claimed two wickets in the next over to reduce the students to eight for four.

By the close at 6pm Cardiff MCCU had moved onto 13 for four off 10 overs, Gregory ending with two for one run and Brooks two for 12.

At the end of the day Hildreth said: “At this time of the year you’re just hoping for time in the middle as a batter, and you expect it to nibble about a bit especially this early on.

“It was a good start for me and you cant ask for much more really. You go in and hope to start the season well, so to go in and get a bit of rhythm going was really good. It was also good to see all of the other lads getting starts, and everyone looked fluent. Everyone in the changing room thought that it was a worthwhile exercise.

“All day when you put the ball in the right areas it was doing a bit and it was hard work at times.

“When we bowled there were some good signs as well with Brooksy and Lewis. It was was their kind of wicket and they were both tough to play and to get runs against.

“We’ve been fortunate with the weather and we will have another crack in the morning and see what we can do.”

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09/07/2022 19:00 - The Cooper Associates County Ground