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County Championship Division One: Rain stops play on day three between Somerset and Middlesex

PUBLISHED: 16:43 27 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:43 27 September 2017

Paul Stirling top scored for Middlesex in their first innings at Taunton (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Paul Stirling top scored for Middlesex in their first innings at Taunton (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

©TGS Photo tgsphoto.co.uk +44 1376 553468

Somerset’s charge towards safety in the Specsavers County Championship First Division was halted by the weather on the third day of the relegation clash with Middlesex at Taunton.

By the time steady rain set in at 1.40pm, ensuring no more play, the visitors had struggled to 40 for three in their second innings, chasing an unlikely target of 345 on a pitch continuing to assist the spinners.

Jack Leach removed openers Sam Robson and Nick Compton, while Dom Bess produced a ball that turned and lifted in his first over to have Dawid Malan caught behind.

Earlier, James Hildreth had completed his 41st first class century as Somerset extended their second innings to 250 for nine before skipper Tom Abell declared.

Hildreth, who began the day on 82, was out for 109 in the chase for quick runs. Middlesex left-arm spinner Ravi Patel finished with five for 92 and match figures of 12 for 173.

Aware that rain was forecast for the afternoon, Somerset batted positively from their overnight score of 159 for three.

Abell moved from 33 to 45 before being out to a one-day shot. Attempting to reverse sweep Patel, he guided the ball straight to Adam Voges at slip.

Steve Davies, who received his Somerset county cap during the lunch interval, fell leg before to Patel before Hildreth was bowled by James Harris, having faced 192 balls and hit 12 fours.

The innings was priceless for Somerset, not only for putting them in a strong position, but also in showing what was possible on a pitch that was the centre of controversy on day one.

Craig Overton, warmly applauded as he walked to the wicket following his Ashes tour selection, perished in a bid for boundaries, as did Dom Bess and Roelof van der Merwe, who produced a valuable cameo of 24 off 19 balls.

When he became Patel’s fourth victim of the day and fifth of the innings, Abell declared and quickly offered the new ball to left-arm spinner Leach in tandem with Overton.

Robson survived two major scares before he was out, Overton missing the wickets after fielding the first ball of the innings off his own bowling when Nick Compton called for a suicidal quick single, and Abell dropping a dolly at short cover off Leach.

The mistake didn’t prove costly as Leach got a ball to grip and Robson edged to Overton at slip with the total on 20.

Changing his pace cleverly, Leach then had Compton lbw failing to get forward to a full ball and Bess’s second delivery was too good for Malan.

The rain arrived with Somerset going for the throat and, with the forecast for tomorrow dry, the home side will hope to secure the win that keeps them in the top flight.

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