Four half-centuries put Somerset in a good position

Sixth-wicket pair Lewis Gregory and Steve Davies aggressively batted Somerset into a strong position on day one against Yorkshire at Emerald Headingley.

They were two of four half-centurions at the start of a crucial Specsavers County Championship fixture.

Azhar Ali top-scored with a patient 89 as the visitors closed on 374 for eight from 96 overs. James Hildreth also added 81 and went beyond 16,000 career runs. Together the two batsmen shared 137 for the third wicket as Somerset recovered from five for two after Yorkshire had elected to bowl.

However, it was Davies and, in particular, Gregory who drove their side forwards late in the day, sharing 114 inside 18 overs to advance from 229 for five.

Davies cut for fun on the way to 80, while Gregory continued on from his quick-fire Vitality Blast half-century against Notts Outlaws on Monday, hitting 65 off 46 balls.

Early strikes from Jack Brooks, bowling against the County he will be joining next season, and David Willey left Somerset with work to do.

Brooks announced earlier this week he is joining Somerset on a three-year deal this winter, so it was no surprise that he made the breakthrough, getting Eddie Byrom caught behind fending at a short ball.

Left-armer Willey, captaining Yorkshire in the absence of injured Steve Patterson, then forced Marcus Trescothick to edge a drive to second slip – the second wicket to fall inside the first eight overs.

Hildreth counter-attacked and reached 50 off 56 balls. Willey eventually removed Hildreth after lunch when the Somerset man was caught at first slip as the score fell to 142 for three in the 41st.

Brooks then had his captain to be Tom Abell caught behind by Andrew Hodd at 170 for four in the 55th.

Wicketkeeper Hodd is retiring at the end of the season, and he was replaced in the first team for all formats by Jonny Tattersall in May. Tattersall, however, suffered a back spasm on Tuesday.

Sandwiched in between the two wickets, Azhar Ali reached 50 off 118 balls, and he played confidently on both sides of the wicket.

Yorkshire came into this match with four specialist seamers, but they started the evening session by employing part-time off-spinners Adam Lyth and Kane Williamson. However, it was back to seam by the time Azhar Ali fell at 229 for five after 69.

Gregory got off the mark with a six over long-on off Lyth with his second ball and later reached 50 off 32 having hit three sixes and six fours.

Gregory and Davies both fell to Brooks, bowling with the new ball, in the 87th over – Gregory caught at deep mid-wicket and Davies low down at cover – as the score reached to 343 for seven. Shaw then had Craig Overton caught behind shortly before close.

At the end of the day James Hildreth said: “It was doing loads out there. It was swinging a lot, it was a bit up and down, and there was also movement off the seam as well. We knew we had to fight it out and wait for the bad ball. We knew we’d play and miss and edge to third-man, but we just had to go with it. Fortunately for us, it paid off.

“After the day’s play, sitting in the changing room, we are very happy with where we’re at. We feel we’re in a strong position. It’s a pretty upbeat mood in there.

“We’re targeting 400, which you try and do every game, but on that kind of wicket, the general consensus was that it’s a 280-300 wicket. We don’t know for certain until both teams have had a crack on it, but if we put it in the right areas, I feel like we’ll ask some good questions of their batters.”

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