Stunning Somerset claim victory at Edgbaston
Somerset’s pursuit for a maiden County Championship title remains on course as they defeated Warwickshire by five wickets on day four at Edgbaston.
Needing 250 to win with ten wickets in hand, the visitors chased down the target in 72.4 overs to secure an invaluable 21 points as they look to outlast Essex and Yorkshire who both won on Tuesday.
It would have seemed pretty optimistic to think a victory was possible when Somerset slumped to 166 for five on day two, but an excellent century from Steve Davies and strong bowling performance, led by Tom Abell, on day three gave the Taunton based side the advantage ahead of a defining final day.
The Bears bowled well, missing the bat several times, but key partnerships through the Somerset middle order between Tom Banton, who came through the Warwickshire Pathway, Pakistan international Babar Azam, George Bartlett and Dom Bess, frustrated the hosts.
Wicket-keeper Davies was the first wicket to fall, edging a wide Oliver Hannon-Dalby in swinger to Tim Ambrose for 16, with James Hildreth following 14 balls later. The 34-year-old got stuck in his crease, trapped LBW by Hannon-Dalby who had to wait a little while for umpire Ian Gould to raise the finger.
There would be no hesitation following Henry Brookes’ appeal, however. The birthday boy, who turned 20, bowled a full delivery which Abell played around and struck his pads for 25. But more quick wickets never came as Babar, who was playing his first County Championship fixture with a Test average of 53.29 in his past ten games, and Banton put on a stylish partnership of 90 from 178 balls to thrust the initiative back to the visitors.
Babar would eventually depart, trapped LBW by debutant George Garrett for 40 from 103 balls (eight fours), whilst Banton, who hit Jeetan Patel for a reverse sweep six, returned to the pavilion after an excellent catch from Tim Ambrose off the spinner for 66. Any hope of a middle-order collapse were quickly dashed, however, by more professional batting from Bartlett (54 from 76 balls) and Bess (40 from 62 balls).
The pair showed their experience blending attack with defence. Resuming after tea on 215 for five, needing 43 more, it would take the duo just 8.4 overs to chase down the 258 total they were set late on day three.
Their partnership, which closed at 88 from 102 balls, could prove to be vital in a title race that looks to be heading down the wire.
Somerset sit just two points behind league leaders Essex and they’ll be comforted by the fact they face their rivals at Taunton in the final game of the season.
Afterwards, Tom Abell said: “When we saved the follow-on I felt all three results were possible. Of course, it was going to take a great effort from us to get ourselves ahead of the game and we managed to do that yesterday.
“I thought we bowled really well and those lower order partnerships, which helped us avoid the follow-on, I think were a big momentum shift in the game. The last two, or even three days we’ve done really well as after day one we were really up against it at 300 for four.
“To come back like we have done is something we talk about a lot when we’re in those positions and we managed to do that in this game.”
“I thought the way Georgie (George Bartlett) played this afternoon was mature beyond his years and showed a great temperament, alongside Bessy (Dom Bess) who had a great game.
“Those lower order partnerships show we’ve got guys who can bat all the way down and that was telling in this game.”
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