Mar 272013

ENGLAND coach Ashley Giles was at Taunton as Craig Kieswetter fell nine runs short of a century, after digging Somerset out of a hole on the opening day of their three-day friendly against Middlesex.

England one-day supremo Giles was at the County Ground as talks continue between the national set-up, Somerset, Kieswetter and Jos Buttler regarding the county’s wicketkeeping position. With their international prospects in mind, both players understandably feel they need to keep wicket at county level this season.

Kieswetter, who is wearing the Somerset gloves in this friendly, arrived in the middle with his side on 34-3, then saw them struggle to 120-6, before putting on a stand of 84 with the impressive Lewis Gregory (35). Somerset declared their innings on 274-9 after 70 overs, with Middlesex reaching 85-1 from 21.5 overs by the close.

After their shaky start, which followed Monday’s 104-run defeat to Gloucestershire in a 50-over match, Kieswetter guided his team to 249-7 at tea. But he fell to the fourth ball after the interval, caught and bowled by James Harris for a 138-ball 91, which included 16 fours.

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On another bitterly cold day, with fielders from both sides wearing woolly hats and light snow falling towards the end, Kieswetter was probably grateful for the extra warmth of the gloves as he took his position behind the stumps. But it was with the bat that he starred, rescuing his side after their decision to bat upon winning the toss quickly appeared questionable.

The hosts lost skipper Marcus Trescothick for a 14-ball duck, caught behind off James Harris, before Arul Suppiah departed in the following over for 19, lbw to Tim Murtagh as Somerset slipped to 23-2. That became 34-3 when Chris Jones was held in the slips by Ollie Rayner off Murtagh for six.

Kieswetter and James Hildreth added 35 for the fourth wicket, with Hildreth scoring 27 before being caught by Ravi Patel off Toby Roland-Jones as Somerset fell to 69-4.

Kieswetter and Buttler guided their team into three figures with a 50-run partnership, dominated by the boundary-making of the latter, who scored a quick-fire 30 before being caught behind off Tom Helm. Alex Barrow was then caught and bowled by Patel for a two-ball duck – and Somerset looked in a spot of bother at 120-6.

But Kieswetter and Gregory bossed the middle session as the sun briefly broke through, adding 84 for the seventh wicket in 21.2 overs, with Gregory looking composed as he scored 35 from 72 balls – including five fours and a six. He was eventually trapped lbw by Roland-Jones, but not before offering a strong hint that he is well on the way to becoming a genuine all-round option.

Craig Overton is another hoping to fulfil that role for Somerset – and he did his chances no harm by scoring an unbeaten 31 off 71 balls, including a contribution of 21 in a 46-run stand with Kieswetter, who was eventually caught and bowled by Harris.

Somerset, who then lost Craig Meschede for 12, soon declared, before Sam Robson (37) and Adam London (43 not out) saw the visitors to 85-1, with Robson out to what proved to be the final ball of the day when he was held by a juggling Hildreth in the slips off Jack Leach.

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