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60 for Roelof on day two

Roelof van der Merwe made a rapid 60 as Somerset claimed a batting point on a rain-affected second day of this Specsavers County Championship match against Essex at the Cooper Associates County Ground.

Only 45.5 overs were possible after a delayed start with Somerset resuming their first innings on 75 for four.

The home side slipped to 144 for nine by early afternoon but van der Merwe smashed four sixes in a 42-ball half-century, sharing a last-wicket stand of 59 with Jack Leach (11 not out).

The hosts were finally dismissed for 203, a total that could prove challenging.

Off-spinner Harmer claimed his 11th five-wicket haul of the season, but conceded 105 runs in the process, while seamer Sam Cook returned four for 26 from 19 overs.

Essex were left with 40 minutes to negotiate before tea. Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton both went past the outside edge on several occasions, but Alastair Cook and Nick Browne survived to post 25 without loss by the interval.

The rain then set in again forcing umpires Alex Wharf and Rob Bailey to abandon play for the day at just before 5pm.

A wet outfield had prevented any play until noon and Somerset suffered an early setback when Harmer, bowling with three close fielders, induced George Bartlett to glance a catch to Ravi Bopara at leg-slip.

Gregory decided attack was the best form of defence and took four fours off a Harmer over before departing for 17, lbw advancing down the pitch to Cook.

Somerset skipper Tom Abell gave a lesson in how to play the turning ball, moving stylishly from an overnight 24 to 45 by lunch, which was taken with his side 126 for six.

Sadly Abell’s resistance ended soon after the break when he was pinned lbw on the back-foot to end his accomplished innings.

Craig Overton soon followed in similar fashion and at 130 for eight, Somerset fans were subdued. However, out strode van der Merwe who hit his first ball from Harmer for six with a slog sweep.

Three more maximums followed, one with a reverse sweep, as van der Merwe moved to a valiant fifty. Dom Bess had departed for ten, bowled middle stump by Cook, but Leach walked out to warm applause for his Ashes heroics and was soon defying the bowlers again.

He looked solid and kept van der Merwe company in a stand that gave Somerset momentum before the South African was bowled by Aron Nijjar attempting another reverse sweep.

Heartened by the boost to their score, the hosts came out firing and Gregory beat Cook three times in an over.

Overton also went past the bat on several occasions, but together Cook and Browne rode the storm and reached the sanctuary of the dressing room.

At the close of play van der Merwe said: “We knew that anything around 200 would be a good score and today was my day. It’s quite tough when Harmer is in that kind of mood and bowling well. There were men around the bat, so I tried to put a bit of pressure on him.

“We just have to be patient in the way we go about things, not worry too much about the scoreboard and land the ball in good areas.

“The guys are very positive and hoping to get two days of good cricket.”

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