Joy of six for Barker but Somerset stage stunning lower order recovery against Hampshire

A stunning eighth-wicket stand of 171 between centurion Lewis Gregory and Roelof van der Merwe transformed the opening day of Somerset’s County Championship match with Hampshire at Taunton.

Keith Barker celebrates one of his six wickets at Taunton today. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)
Keith Barker celebrates one of his six wickets at Taunton today. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

The first paying spectators at the Cooper Associates County Ground this season saw the hosts crash to 113-7 after losing the toss, left-arm seamer Keith Barker claiming six wickets for only the third time in his 132-game first class career, writes RICHARD LATHAM.

But Gregory, whose 107 featured 14 fours and 2 sixes, and van der Merwe (88) counter-attacked in thrilling fashion, staying together for 35 overs and helping Somerset recover to 360 all out.

Barker finished with 6-72 from 24 overs before bad light prevented Hampshire beginning their reply in a game where victory would take them into the top two in Group B. Barker’s career best remains the 6-40 he took at the same ground nine years ago.

Tom Banton looks skywards after being dismissed by Keith Barker. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images.

The start of a riveting day saw Somerset plunge to 43-5. Eddie Byrom was bowled by Barker without scoring and the only runs in the first seven overs were a boundary from Steve Davies.

It was 20-2 when Tom Abell edged Barker to Liam Dawson at second slip and 26-3 as James Hildreth nicked the inspired bowler through to wicketkeeper Lewis McManus.

George Bartlett fell lbw for a duck shouldering arms and Barker finished his initial nine-over spell from the River End with figures of 4-7, reward for swing and nagging accuracy.

When Brad Wheal had Lewis Goldsworthy caught behind, Somerset’s innings was in disarray. But Davies was 36 not out by lunch, having added 35 with Tom Banton (26 not out).

Lewis Gregory celebrates reaching his century. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images.

They took the total to 108 before the impressive Banton was bowled for 45, attempting to drive Barker.

Davies, on 47, edged a third catch to McManus, having faced 102 balls and hit 7 fours, and Somerset were 113-7, with Barker's figures 6- 23.

Gregory and van der Merwe reacted to the crisis with an array of boundaries all around the wicket.

Gregory was first to fifty, off 53 balls, with eight fours, while van der Merwe took only two deliveries more over his half-century.

Keith Barker appeals unsuccessfully for a leg before decision against Lewis Gregory. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images.

It featured two sixes and six fours. Soon the 36-year-old all-rounder was celebrating a third maximum, clearing the ropes over long-off with a lofted drive off Felix Organ.

Tea was taken at 232-7 before Gregory notched his first six, launching Barker over long-on.

At 244-7, there was a brief break for bad light. Gregory and van der Merwe then resumed their onslaught until the latter called for a quick single to cover and was run out by Wheal’s direct hit at the bowler’s end.

Gregory reached his hundred with a pulled boundary off Kyle Abott, having faced 135 balls, before falling to the same bowler.

Marchant de Lange, with two big sixes, and Josh Davey saw Somerset to a fourth batting point.

After recording his best figures since joining Hampshire, Barker said: ‘There was a bit in the pitch and I got the ball to swing at times, so from a personal point of view I am very happy.

‘But we were probably guilty of taking our foot off the pedal after making such a good start and 360 is a bigger total than we should have allowed them to get from 113-7.

‘We didn't quite maintain our lines and lengths. There will still be something in the pitch for the bowlers tomorrow so we will need to bat well.’

Gregory added: ‘Playing hasn't been the same without the crowds in and it was fantastic to score a hundred the first day our supporters were back in the ground.

‘Roelof and I just set out to be positive in the situation we found ourselves. At times it must have looked like we were trying to outdo one another for maverick shots and I think he had the edge over me!

‘To score 360 from the position we were in means we are in good spirits and we will see tomorrow how good a total it is.’