Northamptonshire 137 for 4 (Vasconcelos 70) vs Somerset
Ricardo Vasconcelos made the best of a bad situation to register a notable half-century and keep Northants afloat on the first day of the LV=County Championship match against Somerset at the Cooper Associates Ground at Taunton.
On a day when the first division’s bottom two teams sought the reassurance that only positive progress can provide, they were frustrated by the rain that rolled off the Quantock Hills and ensured only 37.4 overs were possible. Without a win in three outings this season, Somerset won the toss and elected to bowl on a green-tinged pitch, and Northants, still without a batting bonus point in 2023, reached 137 for 4 before the elements closed in to force a premature cessation of hostilities.
Just as well then that Vasconcelos was on hand to illuminate a gloomy day, the 25-year-old South African making light of conditions and regular weather interruptions to top-score with 70 before becoming the first of two victims claimed by Somerset seamer Lewis Gregory.
Having averaged a meagre 25.04 in a campaign blighted by injury in 2022 and without a score worthy of mention so far this term, Vasconcelos rocked up in the West Country with a point to prove. By the time he was finished, he had helped stage Northamptonshire’s highest opening stand of the season and raised his first fifty since making 76 against Surrey in September last year.
He helped himself to 13 boundaries in an innings spanning 103 balls and dominated partnerships of 65 and 51 with Hassan Azad and stand-in captain Sam Whiteman for the first and second wickets respectively before Somerset launched a fightback after lunch to even things up.
Of course, the day might have turned out quite differently had Vasconcelos, yet to score and groping outside off stump, not been dropped by Tom Kohler-Cadmore at first slip off Craig Overton in the very first over. He certainly made good his escape, making most of the running in an opening stand that served to confound Somerset expectations.
With England bowler Overton restored to the starting line-up after injury, Somerset skipper Tom Abell had no hesitation in inserting the opposition. But the hosts were guilty of wasting the new ball, too many deliveries fading down leg side when the minimum requirement was to make the batter play.
As such, there was a sense of relief in home ranks when the breakthrough finally arrived 30 minutes prior to the lunch interval. Straightened up by an in-swinging delivery from Kasey Aldridge, Azad succeeded in fending low to third slip where Overton demonstrated safe hands.
Azad contributed 20 in an opening stand of 65 in 19.3 overs and his dismissal gave the hosts renewed hope. But any sense of optimism was tempered as Vasconcelos went to 50 from 73 balls with 10 fours and, together with Whiteman, ushered Northants to 108 for 1 at lunch.
Although storm clouds were gathering to the south, there was still time in a truncated afternoon session for Kohler-Cadmore to atone for his earlier fumble, first slip making no mistake to snaffle Whiteman after Overton located his outside edge. Nevertheless, Whiteman still remained at large for long enough to add 51 in 10.5 overs with Vasconcelos for the second wicket, and Northants were no doubt still satisfied with their lot when bad light forced the players from the field at 2pm with the score on 117-2.
Their mood darkened somewhat when, upon resuming following a short break, Vasconcelos, his concentration compromised, pushed forward at a ball from Gregory and nicked off to Overton at second slip.
With Somerset’s seamers visibly warming to their task, worse followed for Northants when Saif Zaib, in for injured captain Luke Procter, played down the wrong line and lost his off stump to Gregory, at which point the visitors had lost three wickets for the addition of 21 runs in seven overs. By the time bad light intervened once more at 2.41pm, Northants were 137 for 4 and the contest had taken on an altogether different complexion.
While Overton and Peter Siddle kept things tight, Gregory proved the most incisive of Somerset’s seam quartet, finishing with 2 for 44 from 10.4 overs. He and his team-mates know that more of the same will be required on day two if Somerset are to register a first win of the season.