Dean Elgar maintained his prolific start to the county season by leading Somerset’s recovery to 161 for 5 against Middlesex at Lord’s with a determined 77 not out.
A burst of heavy rain in late afternoon, followed by bad light, meant only the first half of the Specsavers County Championship Division One match’s opening day was possible, but there was still time for Elgar to rally Somerset from a perilous 80 for 5 in the company of his sixth wicket partner, Lewis Gregory, who remains unbeaten on 27. Together, they have so far added 81 in 20 overs.
South Africa Test batsman Elgar now has 390 Championship runs at an average of 55.71. In the recent Royal London One-Day Cup group stage he scored 428 runs in just five innings at an average of 107 and, overall, he has now topped fifty in nine of his 14 innings to date in both competitions.
The left-handed opener has been an early-summer shining light for Somerset in an otherwise underperforming Championship batting line-up and his 146-ball effort was vital as wickets tumbled with regularity at the other end after Somerset had opted to bat first in warm but muggy conditions.
The ball swung for Middlesex’s four-pronged pace attack, with Tim Murtagh and James Franklin finding marked movement in the air, and there was also some bounce available for the taller and quicker bowlers Tom Helm and Toby Roland-Jones.
When Murtagh had Peter Trego caught behind for 2 from the fifth ball after lunch, it looked as if Somerset would be regretting their decision to bat first. But Elgar, mixing stout defence with 12 fours, at last found in Gregory a partner who could stay with him.
Four wickets had fallen in the morning session, with new ball strikes by Roland-Jones and Murtagh initially leaving bottom-of-the-table Somerset reeling at 20 for 2.
Elgar and James Hildreth added 46 before Hildreth fell for 25 to a stunning slip catch by Ollie Rayner. Hildreth edged a drive at James Franklin’s left-arm seamers and Rayner, at second slip, took off to his right to hold a brilliant diving catch.
Helm, switched to the Pavilion End for his second spell, then had Steven Davies caught at the wicket for 6 – edging a sharply rising ball – and Somerset lunched at 78 for 4.
Marcus Trescothick was the first Somerset batsman to depart, caught at third slip for 8 off Roland-Jones after playing and missing several times at Murtagh, who then produced a perfect away-swinger from the Nursery End to have Tom Abell taken at the wicket for 6.
Abell, the 23-year-old and under-pressure Somerset Championship captain, has now scored only 96 runs from nine innings in the four-day game at an average of 12, but even that is riches compared to the out-of-form Davies’ wretched return of 67 runs from eight innings at an average of just 8.37.