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Gregory and Leach set up interesting final day

Scorecard

Somerset’s lower order proficiency came back to prominence on the third day at Edgbaston as Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach in particular guided the visitors to a first innings lead.

Lancashire’s amazing win over Hampshire at Liverpool has left the hosts Warwickshire with a very simple equation. Victory (but nothing less) will bring the title to Edgbaston for the eighth time in the club’s history.

The equation is simple, but forcing victory will be a far from simple business for Will Rhodes’ side on an excellent batting pitch. They closed the third day on 179 for one  – 157 ahead, so need to press on briskly with the bat tomorrow to give themselves time to try to take ten wickets on a batter-friendly surface.

If Warwickshire can pull that off against a Somerset side which, to its great credit, has scrapped every inch of the way, they will deserve to be champions.

The title-chasers spent the first two sessions of the third day in the dirt as Somerset, replying to 367, gritted onward from their overnight 239 for five to reach 389.

The visitors’ head coach Jason Kerr stated the previous evening that “whoever wins the title is going to have to earn it” and his players showed a degree of resolve which matched his words.

Steven Davies (52, 90 balls, eight fours) fell in the second over of the day when he edged Tim Bresnan to Michael Burgess. Bresnan then struck again when he trapped Craig Overton lbw, though Overton’s two-run stay had eaten up 43 minutes.

Somerset’s batting has not over-achieved of late but this time they delivered some important partnerships. After Davies and Lewis Gregory (68, 139 balls) added 60, Gregory and Jack Leach (49, 140 balls) put on 54 and Leach and Josh Davey added 56.

On an unforgiving pitch, there was little the depleted Warwickshire attack (without the injured Olly Stone, Olly Hannon-Dalby and Henry Brookes) could do but persevere. The indefatigable Bresnan was the pick, finishing with three for 35, supported by Danny Briggs (three for 77) and Chris Woakes (three for 100).

Trailing by 22, Warwickshire had a session to regain the initiative and fully seized the opportunity. Rob Yates (72 not out, 119 balls) and Dom Sibley (50, 69 balls) batted enterprisingly to add 119 in 28 overs and Will Rhodes added late impetus with 42 in 29 balls Together the trio supplied their side with a springboard to a potential victory – and championship title – tomorrow.

Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory said: “Batting is difficult against the new ball and Warwickshire bowled well in the first hour, but we batted well and put some good partnerships together. I think whether we chase a target tomorrow is whether it is realistic. We always want to win games of cricket, but the chase has to be realistic.

[Asked whether Warwickshire might set perhaps 300 in 65 overs:] “I don’t think Warwickshire would want to go that deep. They need to give themselves time to bowl us out.”

Warwickshire captain Will Rhodes said:

“What’s happened at Liverpool has put it back in our hands so now we have got to try and set something up tomorrow and take ten wickets.

“Fair play to Somerset, they came out and did what they needed to do and took a lot of time out of the game. The last session has swung it back in our favour a little bit and we are going to have to play well in the morning to come up with a target with a suitable amount of overs that we think we can bowl, them out on.

“When you have had 13 and three-quarters games and are still in the hunt for a country championship that’s a great feeling. There is a lot of excitement in the dressing room at the minute and we just know that we have all got to make it as hard as possible for Somerset tomorrow.”

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