Somerset inch closer to County Championship safety

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Somerset look like staving off relegation from Division One of the Specsavers County Championship having built up a lead of over 250 after two days against Middlesex.

Having prevented their opponents from reaching 250 in their first innings, Somerset now know a victory will ensure they stay up, and they will begin the third day 159 for three, a lead of 253, in their second innings.

They were indebted to the bowling of Craig Overton (three for seven) and Jack Leach (four for 54) as a Middlesex side that had slunk to 22 for five missed out on the chance to claim the bonus points which would have ensured they finished ahead of Somerset whatever the result.

James Hildreth, on 82, and skipper Tom Abell return on Wednesday to resume a fourth-wicket partnership already worth 100.

James Hildreth
James Hildreth is closing in on a century (Tim Goode/PA)

It therefore looks like Middlesex, champions last season, now need help from elsewhere to avoid the drop.

Were they to lose their final contest, they would need already-relegated Warwickshire to beat Hampshire in a contest that remains very much in the balance at Edgbaston.

Twenty wickets fell in Birmingham following Monday’s wash-out as the hosts were dismissed for 188 before skittling Hampshire out for 116 to claim a 72-run lead.

Visiting skipper George Bailey (55) was the only Hampshire player to score more than 16 after Dominic Sibley had posted 92 in a Warwickshire innings where Fidel Edwards claimed five for 49.

Fidel Edwards
Fidel Edwards claimed a five-wcket haul (John Walton/Empics)

Champions Essex look set to finish the season unbeaten as they strengthened their position against Yorkshire, whom they are 250 runs ahead of with eight second-innings wickets in hand.

Replying to Essex’s 227, the White Rose could only make 111, with Jamie Porter, Simon Harmer and Neil Wagner all taking three wickets apiece.

Nick Browne and Dan Lawrence then made unbeaten half-centuries as Essex closed their second innings on 134 for two.

In the other top-flight match, Lancashire skipper Steven Croft posted his first century in over a year in their 268, with Surrey 12 runs ahead having made 79 without loss in their second innings.

In Division Two, Worcestershire moved to the brink of promotion against Durham.

Some lower-order batting resistance, typified by Ravichandran Ashwin’s 82 and Ed Barnard’s 75, took Worcestershire to 335 and earned them half of the points needed to ensure a top-two finish.

The bowlers then followed that up by reducing Durham to 142 for five inside 39 overs. To go up, they just need to make sure Durham are nine down in 110 overs.

They probably do not need that part of the equation as Northamptonshire failing to reaching 350 against Leicestershire – they are 199 for eight – would also send Worcestershire up.

Northants had reduced their hosts to 128, with Ben Sanderson and Richard Gleeson both claiming five-fors, but with minimal batting bonus points likely heading their way, they will be keeping an eye on events at Sussex.

That is where promotion hopefuls Nottinghamshire are struggling, 457 runs in arrears and five first-innings wickets down. Sussex posted 565, Chris Jordan and Michael Burgess making respective career-best first class totals of 147 and 146, with Notts only 108 for five in reply.

Elsewhere, 15 wickets fell on day two at Canterbury, where Kent (302 and 98 for six) lead Glamorgan (229) by 171, while Alex Hughes’ 142 underpinned Derbyshire’s 460, with Gloucestershire 47 for one in their response.

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