Benkenstein makes Somerset pay

Lv County Championship

Dale Benkenstein

Dale Benkenstein makes the most of an early reprieve as he progresses steadily to three figures on the first day

Durham cashed in on some generous Somerset fielding to move into a strong position on the opening day of the LV= County Championship Division One match.

No fewer than six catches of varying difficulty went down as the county champions rode their luck to close on 372 for six despite losing the toss at Taunton.

Dale Benkenstein capitalised with a century, while Michael Di Venuto and Gordon Muchall, who made 53 and 68 respectively, also took advantage of some wayward bowling

Benkenstein was unbeaten on 110 at the close as a Somerset attack lacking three first-choice seamers because of injury struggled to make the most of a green pitch and swinging conditions.

The home side gave a debut to tall pace bowler David Stiff, previously with Yorkshire, Kent and Leicestershire, Andy Caddick (back), Ben Phillips (back) and Mark Turner (groin) having reported unfit.

It was the reliable Charl Willoughby who made the only breakthrough of the morning after a stand of 98 in 22 overs between Di Venuto and Mark Stoneman.

Di Venuto had completed his half-century off 65 balls, with nine fours, when he edged to first slip, where Justin Langer knocked the ball up for second slip Marcus Trescothick to catch it.

Somerset threw away great opportunities as Trescothick spilled two catches and wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter three.

Ian Blackwell & Craig Kieswetter

Ian Blackwell makes an immediate impression on his return to Taunton with a half-century for his new employers

Arul Suppiah also failed to hold on to a difficult one-handed chance at point offered by Will Smith, who had two lives in making only seven.

He fell with the score on 119, lbw to Alfonso Thomas, and without addition to the score.

Stoneman, on 38, was caught by the diving Kieswetter off a Stiff lifter to give him his first championship wicket for Somerset.

Muchall was dropped by Kieswetter off Thomas before he had scored and it proved a costly error as he went to a half-century off 97 balls, with seven fours.

Benkenstein, too, was dropped on six and 19 by Trescothick and Kieswetter respectively, and made Somerset pay even more dearly.

He and Muchall went to their half-centuries in the first over after tea, Benkenstein's coming off 88 balls, with seven fours.

The pair had added 166 when Muchall, in attempting to work Omari Banks across the line, provided Trescothick with a simple chance at cover point.

That brought in Ian Blackwell, who left Somerset at the end of last season. The all-rounder received a rousing cheer from home supporters and moved confidently to 50 before driving a Peter Trego full toss to James Hildreth at cover.

Nightwatchman Graham Onions was then bowled by Trego for a duck as Somerset at least finished the day strongly.

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