Somerset turn the screw on day two against Middlesex

Somerset built a winning position on the second day of this Specsavers County Championship match with Middlesex at the Cooper Associates County Ground, knowing that victory would secure First Division survival at the expense of their visitors.

The hosts closed on 159 for three in their second innings, a lead of 253.

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 for three. Jack Leach claimed four for 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 for five. 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 2 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. Somerset’s third spinner Roelof van der Merwe then 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 for eight.

Lunch was taken at 127 for eight and after the interval it was Craig Overton who wrapped up the innings by bowling James Harris and having Ravi Patel caught at cover. Overton finished with three for seven from 5.3 overs, having bowled quickly and accurately on a surface more conducive to spin.

When Somerset batted again Eddie Byrom and George Bartlett fell cheaply 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, 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.

At the end of a day when he ended 82 not out James said: “You know that any lead will be huge so with that mindset you start to get your singles. It was a good lesson for me and the other guys. If you scrap and get yourself in then it gets easier.”

Has this been his best innings of the season? “I’ve played better and got a 100 on a juicy wicket at Scarborough,” he said. “But in the context of the season and for the team this is easily the best. You want to be scoring runs for the team then everything that is happening in this game in terms of Division One just makes it seem like a pretty decent knock.

“There is still enough spin out there and if you put the ball in the right areas there is enough going on, but you can’t go into a game with the mindset that it’s going to spin or be a bad wicket to bat on.

“I believe you have always got to be positive and look for ways to score runs rather than worrying about surfaces. In their innings I think that Malan and Stirling were proactive and got runs that they deserved. There is spin there and it’s a result wicket but then if you play on a green wicket with seamers its hard work as well.

“If you get yourself in and play in the right way then the wicket is a good test for the batsman to play on. It’s a great challenge but if you apply yourself then you can get runs on it.

“I think we’ve got a decent lead but I presume we will try to get as many as we can and then bowl them out.”

The match scorecard can be viewed here

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