|Bob Willis Trophy, The Cooper Associates County Ground (day one):|
|Somerset 237: Bartlett 100*; Payne 4-44, Higgins 4-72|
|Gloucestershire 13-4: Davey 2-4, C Overton 2-9|
|Somerset 2 pts, Glos 3 pts|
George Bartlett’s fourth first-class century transformed Somerset’s fortunes on a dramatic opening day of the Bob Willis Trophy match against Gloucestershire.
The 22-year-old former England Under-19 batsman ended unbeaten on exactly 100 as his side were bowled out for 237, having been 89-5 and 176-9 after losing the toss.
Bartlett’s valiant innings occupied 143 balls and featured 17 fours. David Payne claimed 4-44 and Ryan Higgins 4-72, but a last-wicket stand of 61 between Bartlett and Jack Brooks frustrated the bowlers.
By the close, Gloucestershire had slumped to 13-4 after Chris Dent and Graeme van Buuren fell to Craig Overton, while Ben Charlesworth and nightwatchman Josh Shaw fell to Josh Davey in the first seven overs.
The start of the day had seen Somerset plunge into trouble after visiting skipper Dent had elected to field, with threatening clouds gathering.
Left-arm seamer Payne, fresh from eight wickets in the previous game against Glamorgan, bowled Eddie Byrom for a duck with a fine delivery at the start of the third over.
With the total on 29, Somerset captain Tom Abell edged Shaw through to wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick, departing for 10, and at the end of a morning session which was interrupted for 40 minutes by a heavy shower, Somerset were 42-2.
Higgins grabbed an important scalp soon after the interval, pinning James Hildreth lbw for 13 and it was 57-4 when opener Tom Lammonby was well caught low at third slip by Tom Lace off the same bowler having made 24.
Gloucestershire looked to be taking a firm grip when Steve Davies was caught down the leg side by Roderick off Payne for 16 in the 35th over.
But Bartlett looked in better form than his team-mates from the outset and by tea he had moved confidently to 43, looking particularly strong off the back foot through the off side.
Craig Overton provided support as batting began to look more comfortable under clearing skies and had contributed 32 in a stand of 75 when trapped in front to Higgins with the total on 164 in the final session.
A clatter of wickets followed, Roelof van der Merwe edging Payne to George Hankins at second slip, Jamie Overton caught behind aiming a mighty swing off the same bowler and Davey taken at first slip by Dent off Higgins, having been dropped by Hankins the previous ball.
Somerset, whose top-order batting had been fragile in previous games, looked in danger of ending their innings without a bonus point but Bartlett began to cut loose and found a reliable partner in Brooks.
They should have been parted with the score on 195 when Hankins spilled another chance at second slip offered by Brooks off Matt Taylor and Gloucestershire’s fielding let them down when another chance offered by Brooks went begging to the cost of four overthrows.
Bartlett continued to punish anything short through the covers and point. A richly deserved hundred was reached with a single to third-man off Taylor but Brooks was then caught at mid-off for 24 from the next delivery.
Momentum was with Somerset and Craig Overton was quick to build on it by trapping Dent lbw for five in the third over of Gloucestershire’s reply, Charlesworth edged to second slip, Van Buuren was caught behind and Shaw was rapped on the pads as the fiery Overton and accurate Davey threatened with virtually every ball.
Somerset centurion George Bartlett:
“I have been playing here since I was a kid and it has always been a dream of mine to score a hundred at Taunton. To achieve it and help the team out of a tough position made it a very special day.
“We try to score as many runs as possible as a team, but the way our bowling attack is firing any total we make seems to put us in a strong position. Now we must avoid any hint of complacency.
“It’s a strange pitch and batting wasn’t easy for anyone at the start of their innings. Once I got in, it became a lot easier. I pride myself on my off-side game.”
Gloucestershire all-rounder Ryan Higgins:
“We bowled really well up to their last-wicket partnership and will take a lot from the day. But we put pressure on our batsmen by just letting things slip at the end of Somerset’s innings.
“You can’t afford to do that against top sides. George Bartlett played brilliantly, handling the situation his side were in really well, and all credit to him.
“Unfortunately, we allowed Somerset to walk off with a spring in their step at the end of their innings and that made things more difficult for our batsmen in those 12 overs to close of play.”
Match report supplied by PA Media.