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Lewis and Roelof bring the crowd to their feet on day one

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An eighth wicket stand of 171 between Lewis Gregory and Roelof van der Merwe was the main highlight on an excellent first day of this LV= Insurance County Championship match against Hampshire at the Cooper Associates County Ground.

It was also a day that saw the long-awaited return of Somerset Members to the stands.

Nearly 2000 supporters were present to witness a remarkable day’s play which also included a century for Gregory alongside some extremely entertaining cameos from several Somerset batsmen. There were also six wickets for Hampshire’s Keith Barker.

It was quite a turn around for the hosts who had slipped to 113 for seven after losing the toss, but Gregory, whose 107 featured 14 fours and two sixes, and van der Merwe (88) counter-attacked in thrilling fashion, staying together for 35 overs and helping Somerset recover to 360 all out.

Barker finished with six for 72 from 24 overs before bad light prevented Hampshire beginning their reply

The start of a riveting day saw Somerset plunge to 43 for five. Eddie Byrom was bowled by Barker without scoring and the only runs in the first seven overs were a boundary from Steve Davies.

It was 20 for two when Tom Abell edged Barker to Liam Dawson at second slip and 26 for three as James Hildreth nicked one through to wicketkeeper Lewis McManus.

George Bartlett fell lbw for a duck shouldering arms and Barker finished his initial nine-over spell from the River End with figures of four for seven, reward for swing and nagging accuracy.

When Brad Wheal had Lewis Goldsworthy caught behind, Somerset’s innings was in trouble. However, Davies was 36 not out by lunch, having added 35 with Tom Banton, himself going well on 26.

They took the total to 108 before the impressive Banton was bowled for 45, attempting to drive Barker.

Davies, on 47, edged a third catch to McManus, having faced 102 balls and hit seven fours, and Somerset were 113 for seven, with Barker’s figures six for 23.

Gregory and van der Merwe reacted to the crisis with an array of boundaries all around the wicket.

Gregory was first to fifty, off 53 balls, with eight fours, while van der Merwe took only two deliveries more over his half-century.

It featured two sixes and six fours. Soon the 36-year-old all-rounder was celebrating a third maximum, clearing the ropes over long -off with a lofted drive off Felix Organ.

Tea was taken at 232 for seven before Gregory notched his first six, launching Barker over long-on.

At 244 for seven, there was a brief break for bad light. Gregory and van der Merwe then resumed their onslaught until the latter called for a quick single to cover and was run out by Wheal’s direct hit at the bowler’s end.

Gregory reached his hundred with a pulled boundary off Kyle Abbott, having faced 135 balls, before falling to the same bowler.

Marchant de Lange, with two big sixes, and Josh Davey then saw Somerset to a fourth batting point.

At the close of play, Lewis said: “Playing hasn’t been the same without the crowds in and it was fantastic to score a hundred on the first day that our supporters were back in the ground.

“Roelof and I just set out to be positive in the situation we found ourselves in. At times it must have looked like we were trying to outdo one another for maverick shots and I think he had the edge over me!

“To score 360 from the position we were in means we are in good spirits and we will see tomorrow how good a total it is.”

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