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Debut hundred for Azhar Ali as Somerset turn the screw

Azhar Ali scored a century on his Somerset debut – despite a five wicket haul from England spinner Moeen Ali – as Worcestershire were set a daunting 443 target in the Specsavers County Championship clash at Blackfinch New Road.

The Pakistan batsman, an overseas replacement for Matt Renshaw who also scored a hundred on his first appearance for Somerset against Worcestershire, struck two sixes and 13 fours in his 125 from 188 balls before he was out at 362 for nine at which point Somerset declared.

It left bottom placed Worcestershire needing to survive 15 overs and they lost Daryl Mitchell (6) and Moeen (7) in reaching 50 for two by the close.

In front of England selector James Taylor, Moeen returned his first five wicket haul in the Championship for five years, finishing with five for 107.

Earlier in the day Somerset resumed on 47 for 0 and openers Marcus Trescothick and Eddie Byrom extended their partnership to 97 before Moeen came into the attack and struck three times in the space of four overs.

Bryrom (28) played back to Moeen and was lbw and in his next over the 31-year-old claimed his 300th First Class wicket as Trescothick (71) took a pace down the wicket and was stumped by debutant Alex Milton.

Trescothick, playing his first Championship match since recovering from a foot injury suffered in May, struck 13 fours in a knock spanning 106 balls. James Hildreth was then trapped leg before to Moeen for five.

Azhar Ali and Tom Abell added 73 for the fourth wicket before the latter, on 31, was bowled by Steve Magoffin. Moeen returned to the attack to account for former Worcestershire team-mate Steven Davies (18) who went back to cut and was lbw. It became 239 for six when Peter Trego (4) was bowled by Ed Barnard.

In the penultimate over before tea, Craig Overton (29) was run out by Brett D’Oliveira’s direct hit from mid-on.

Azhar Ali was unbeaten on 97 at that juncture and he quickly moved to three figures on the resumption. Jamie Overton (14) holed out to cover off Dillon Pennington and Azhar Ali finally perished attempting a reverse sweep against Moeen with Milton completing the catch.

Worcestershire will resume on 50 for two, still 392 runs behind.

For the match scorecard click here

At the end of day three Somerset century maker Azhar Ali said: “We almost got everything we wanted today. We put runs on the board, were ruthless with the bat and, when we put them in at the end of the day, we wanted a couple of wickets and we achieved that.

“Credit to the bowlers. They got the lengths right. It will be hard work getting wickets tomorrow but those couple of breakthroughs will definitely help us.

“It was a great delivery (from Jamie Overton) to dismiss Moeen (Ali) and when you get a wicket from the last ball of a day, it is definitely a boost for a team. Hopefully we can capitalise on that tomorrow.”

On his own century on his Somerset debut, he said: “I’m really happy. It is my first game for Somerset and I’ve been made welcome. I really enjoyed batting out there and it was really pleasing to get some runs in the first game and hopefully I can build on that.

“Moeen started to turn the ball out of the rough so I thought attacking him early on was the right option because if you are bogged down, they can bring a short leg into play so, I had to go after him to start with.

“We wanted to score runs as well to be in a position to boss the game. That is why I played positively and it paid off.”

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11/07/2022 11:00 - Southport