Published On: Fri, Apr 20th, 2018

Renshaw stands out with debut century

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Worcestershire 153 for 8 trail Somerset 202 (Renshaw 101*, Barnard 5-52) 49 runs
Scorecard

Somewhere in Australia, Cameron Bancroft will be checking the scores and shaking his head ruefully.

Matt Renshaw has already claimed (reclaimed, you might argue) Bancroft’s place in the Australia side. Now he is sleeping in his bed (Somerset had already arranged the accommodation), driving his car (ditto) and performing his job in Taunton. If Bancroft has a dog, you can imagine it clawing at the door in a big to escape and curl up on the lap of Renshaw.

But for a moment of madness, Bancroft would be with Somerset now. As it is, his contract with the club was annulled in the aftermath of sandpaper-gate and Renshaw was signed as his replacement just days before the season on the strength of his availability as much as anything. He is expected to be available until the end of June and then return in mid-August.

The early signs suggest it will be a happy union. Here, on a surface on which only one of his team-mates could make more than 10, Renshaw made a century on first-class debut for the club. He was just the 14th man to do so in Somerset’s history and the first since Alviro Petersen in 2013.

It was not an especially pretty innings – he was beaten often in the early stages and showed a propensity for the leg side – but his was the standout contribution on a day on which 18 wickets fell. Without Renshaw, Somerset would not only have failed to register a batting bonus point, they may well have failed to set a competitive total. With the ball moving in the air and off a green pitch, batting was never straightforward and Renshaw was made to battle hard for much of his innings.

His was a chanceless century, though. While he twice hit the ball in the air close to a short mid-on placed for the stroke, he did so with such power that the fielder had little chance. He flicked one six off his hips off Ed Barnard and brought up his century with a thundering drive over mid-off when facing the only over of spin delivered during the day.

“Any ball could have your name on,” he said afterwards. “I got a bit lucky that none took the edge or the glove but I kept getting hit on the inner thigh. I just played to play as late and as straight as possible and, with the sun out, it started to remind me of home.”

It will not have gone unnoticed from some Somerset supporters that, if the same number of wickets had fallen in a day to spin bowling, their pitches would have come under scrutiny once again. Yet it is accepted, certainly at this time of year, that conditions will assist seamers. And here, it was typically English seamers – good, probing pros who put the ball in good areas and nibble it around – who held sway: Barnard, who claimed the first five-wicket haul of his first-class career, and Lewis Gregory, who claimed three wickets in his first spell, the stand out performers.

Both harnessed the conditions beautifully. You wonder, though, whether the ECB might not have been wise to encourage Somerset to maintain their policy of preparing spin-friendly surfaces (as much as is possible after a damp pre-season) with a view to the tours of Sri Lanka and the Caribbean that loom for England next winter.

But it wasn’t just typically English seamers who dominated here; it was typically Australian batsmen. After Renshaw held the Somerset innings together, Travis Head did the same for Worcestershire until bottom-edging an attempted pull on to his stumps.

Both are fine players who will hope to return to the UK next year as part of the Ashes or World Cup squads respectively. Certainly Renshaw’s innings won’t have gone unnoticed in Australia. But it was just a bit depressing that they managed to handle the conditions so much more comfortably – or with so much more determination – than the English players on display. Joe Clarke and Tom Abell, for example, played across straight ones, Steve Davies wafted at a wide one and, while several batsmen were victims of fine deliveries, it was hard to avoid the sense most could learn from the Australian duo.

It was depressing, too, to learn that Jamie Overton was injured. As a bowler capable of generating sharp pace, Overton had an opportunity over the next month or so to impress the new England selection team and, perhaps, force his way into their plans. Instead he departed for a scan on his side. While the club are hopeful it is nothing more than a rib injury, there is a possibility it could be a side strain. If that is so, he will be out of action for several weeks.

It seems he would not have played anyway. Feeling his way back having remodelled his action in order to prevent further injuries, he is said to be a little down on pace and confidence. And on these surfaces, his qualities – qualities that could prove so useful on international surfaces – are somewhat redundant.

It was, though, far from a depressing day. A cloudless sky and the return of cricket enticed well over 2,000 spectators into the ground (one of which was Worcestershire’s former director of cricket, Steve Rhodes) with an overriding sense that they didn’t require gimmicks to attract them. Almost 10,000 people attended the first day of the four Division One matches.

There was entertainment, too. James Hildreth, the one England-qualified batsman to reach 30 on the day, struck two sixes – one a flick off middle and leg that would have made Viv Richards proud and the other an upper cut – in between being dropped twice by the usually faultless Ben Cox. While the second was a tough, diving chance, the first was a surprise: Cox appeared to lose sight of the skied ball in the sun and failed to lay a glove on it.

Then there was Barnard. Worcestershire have long thought of him as their version of Chris Woakes and it is not hard to see why. With the ball he is a bit sharper than expected – he credits technical work for providing another yard over the last 12-months or so – and maintains a wonderfully accurate line and length. With the bat he is calm and elegant and has ensured Worcestershire stayed in this game after they sunk to 48 for five and 124 for eight. He retains realistic hopes of batting in the top six one day.

He may have plenty more work ahead of him in this match. Steve Magoffin reported a tight hamstring during the day, though Worcestershire are confident he will be fine, and the pitch is expected to flatten out in the sun.



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