Marcus Harris hit his third County Championship century of the season as Gloucestershire took control on day one of their First Division relegation battle with arch-rivals Somerset at Taunton. Invited to bat first on the Sumi Cooper Associates County Ground pitch, the visitors posted 6-320, with Harris scoring 159 off 263 balls, which included 17 fours and a six.
Ben Charlesworth contributed 56 in an opening stand of 126 with the Australian left-arm, while Ollie Price made 52 against a Somerset attack that saw Pakistani off-spinner Sajid Khan make his debut.
He received little help from the wicket on day one, while the seamers struggled to move off the pitch or through the air.
Somerset captain Tom Able may soon be questioning his fielding decisions as Harris and Charlesworth coped with the new ball with ease and scored at will on either side of the pitch.
Charlesworth was the more aggressive of the pair, hitting eight fours in his 79-ball half-century, while Harris was content to be patient in support of his younger partner.
Sajid was introduced from the River End with a total of 58 and gave Harris a moment of his trouble on 33 when he was saved by a quick chance by George Bartlett at short leg.
Gloucestershire’s opening pair scored a hundred in the 29th over to take the score to 115 for no loss by lunch.
Harris was not out on 47 and quickly moved to his fifty off 99 balls at the start of the afternoon session. Eleven runs were added when Charlesworth mistimed a pull shot to Casey Aldridge and caught Josh Davey at fine leg.
Then came the briefest interruptions of rain. On the restart, Harris hit the first six of the game straight over Sajid’s head.
Price made 200 with a backfoot shot to the cover boundary from Sajid, who was feeling a trial on his first experience of the Taunton pitch.
His late cut took Harris to his 22nd first-class century off 174 balls with 13 fours and a six. It was a patient, futile effort.
At tea, the scoreboard read 217-1. With 20 to spare, there was another rain break before Price made his half-century off 127 balls, as Harris looked restless.
The 21-year-old hit an extraordinary drive off a full, wide ball from Tom Lemmonby and headed past wicketkeeper James Reeve.
Price helped the unbeaten Harris to 125 in 41 overs and at 2-251, Gloucestershire laid the foundation for a big score.
The second new ball was taken at 272-2 and nine runs were added by Miles Hammond, the left-hander hitting Davy at second slip for seven.
Two balls later in the same over, James Bracey hit a defensive shot to Rio and departed for a wicket. And Somerset’s fightback continued when Gloucestershire captain Graeme Van Buren bowled Lewis Gregory shoulder-to-shoulder.
Harris remained a rock, reaching 150 off 246 balls. The 30-year-old Australian Test player was within eight deliveries of the day when he back-footed Gregory at slip-off Jake Brooks.