Somerset v Middlesex: Hosts on top at Taunton
PUBLISHED: 18:36 26 September 2017
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Somerset built a winning position on the second day of the Specsavers County Championship match with Middlesex at Taunton, knowing victory would secure First Division survival at the expense of their visitors.
The hosts closed on 159-3 in their second innings, with a lead of 253 on a pitch which, while offering less assistance to the spinners than on day one, is still turning.
Middlesex needed to reach 250 in their first innings to clinch the bonus points necessary to ensure they finished above Somerset whatever the result.
Instead, they were bowled out for 142, from an overnight 18-3 with Jack Leach claiming 4-54 from 25 overs.
From that point Somerset, with a first innings lead of 94, were aware that a win would secure safety. James Hildreth led the way with 82 not out as they built steadily on their advantage.
The day began brilliantly for the home side as Adam Voges drove a catch to mid-wicket off Dom Bess, who then ran out John Simpson for a duck with a direct hit at the wicketkeeper’s end after Dawid Malan had called for a single to cover.
At that point Middlesex were 22-5 but Malan and Paul Stirling then showed what was possible with sensible shot selection by adding 73 for the sixth wicket.
Counter-attacking when possible, Malan hit two sixes and Stirling one. The stand was broken when left-arm spinner Leach claimed his third wicket of the innings, pinning Malan lbw for 38.
Stirling had batted confidently for his 41 when carelessly stumped down the leg side off Leach, Steve Davies whipping off the bails and appealing successfully to umpire Mike Burns as the batsman stood his ground.
Somerset’s third spinner Roelof van der Merwe got in on the act by gaining a leg before verdict against Steve Finn as he aimed an extravagant slog-sweep to make it 117-8.
Lunch was taken at 127-8 and after the interval it was Craig Overton, tipped for a place in the Ashes tour squad, who wrapped up the innings by bowling James Harris and having Ravi Patel caught at cover.
Overton finished with 3-7 from 5.3 overs, having bowled quickly and accurately on a surface more conducive to spin.
When Somerset batted again young batsmen Eddie Byrom and George Bartlett fell cheaply to poor shots. But Marcus Trescothick passed 19,000 first class runs for Somerset in contributing 31 before falling lbw to a good delivery from Harris that moved into him.
By then Somerset had extended their lead to 153 and Middlesex were bowling almost as much seam as spin in an attempt to limit the scoring.
With the sun shining, Hildreth, who reached his half-century off 98 balls, with four fours, and skipper Tom Abell piled the pressure on Middlesex. Their unbroken stand of exactly 100 by stumps featured orthodox batting and made the pitch look benign.
Hildreth, in the last innings of his testimonial year, batted with an assurance that was matched by his partner as Abell ended the day unbeaten on 33.
Middlesex were left to bemoan the absence of injured spinner Ollie Rayner, who would surely have relished conditions, particularly on the first day.