Alex Barrow's career-best 88 helped Somerset recover from a poor start to post 314 all out on the opening day of the LV= County Championship Division One match with nearly-doomed Northamptonshire at Taunton.
Having lost the toss, the hosts plunged to 70 for four after David Willey had removed both openers cheaply. But 22-year-old Barrow then counter-attacked with 18 fours in sharing a fifth-wicket stand of 153 with Nick Compton, who made 79.
Seamers Willey and Muhammad Azhar Ullah, who took 4-64 and 3-69 respectively, capitalised on a green-looking pitch, while the batsmen enjoyed the benefit of uninterrupted sunshine.
By the close Northants, whose relegation is all-but confirmed, had replied with 39 for no wicket and were entitled to feel on top versus opponents who have an outside chance of taking the title.
At the start of the day Marcus Trescothick scored the five runs he needed to reach 1,000 for the season in first-class cricket. But, having moved on to 12, the Somerset captain had his off stump knocked back by Willey.
— Northants Cricket (@NorthantsCCC) August 31, 2014
It was 25 for two when opening partner Johann Myburgh, also on 12, was lbw to an inswinger from Willey, whose seven-over opening spell from the Old Pavilion End brought a return of 2-12.
At the other end Azhar bowled eight overs for 21, half of them maidens, and picked up the wicket of youngster Tom Abell, bowled off stump for two.
James Hildreth helped Compton add 28 for the fourth wicket before carelessly pulling a catch to midwicket off Andrew Hall, having made 22.
It was 81 for four at lunch, with Barrow still not off the mark. His first scoring shot was an edged boundary through the slips, but as the afternoon wore on the stand-in wicketkeeper for the injured Craig Kieswetter produced a string of sweet cover drives.
Compton, who had played and missed with uncharacteristic frequency early in his innings, also settled, having been unbeaten on 30 at the interval. He moved to a half-century off 114 balls, with nine fours.
Barrow quickly followed to the same landmark, having faced 67 deliveries and struck 11 boundaries. After more positive stroke-play, a flowing drive through extra-over off Willey saw him equal his previous best score of 83 and beat it with a single in the same over.
The pair had taken the score to 223 when Barrow followed a short ball from Willey and was caught behind down the leg side by wicketkeeper Adam Rossington, having faced only 97 deliveries.
— Somerset Cricket (@SomersetCCC) August 31, 2014
Compton looked on course for a hundred, but the last ball before tea from Azhar pinned him lbw on the back foot and Somerset were 235 for six. He had batted for 11 minutes short of four hours and faced 170 balls.
The final session saw Azhar have Peter Trego caught behind for 13 and Duckett ran out Craig Overton for 22 with a direct-hit from point.
Alfonso Thomas was bowled middle stump by James Middlebrook, but Lewis Gregory ensured Somerset of a third batting point with a confident 33 before being last man out to Willey with the second new ball.
Northants were left with 11 overs to bat. With one or two alarms, skipper Stephen Peters and James Kettleborough saw them safely to the close.
Barrow said: "I think the day ended up pretty even. The pitch is doing a bit for the seamers and our bowlers didn't quite hit their straps.
"A couple of wickets would have been nice, but hopefully they will come in the morning.
"I didn't set out to be more positive than usual. It was just the way my innings worked out.
"I had a bit of luck to start with and, while I am very pleased to have contributed 88, another 12 would have fulfilled a dream of scoring a century at Taunton. Hopefully, that is still ahead for me."