Essex fight back to move within sight of unlikely victory
PUBLISHED: 20:00 21 August 2018
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Specsavers County Championship: Somerset 324 & 202 lead Essex 191 & 147-1 by 189 runs
Nick Browne and Tom Westley batted Essex to within sight of an unlikely victory on the third day of the Specsavers County Championship match with Somerset at Taunton.
The visitors looked up against in when set a victory target of 336 on a turning pitch. But Browne (75 not out) and Westley (43 not out) took the score from 58 for one to 147 for one at the close, leaving a further 189 to score tomorrow.
Earlier the Essex bowlers had done an excellent job bowling out Somerset for 202 in their second innings, off-spinner Simon Harmer finishing with four for 69. Eddie Byrom top-scored with 42, while there were two wickets each for Sam Cook and Peter Siddle.
The day had begun with the hosts 32 for one in their second innings and leading by 165. After Cook had nightwatchman Dom Bess caught at second slip for 12, Siddle and Harmer combined to make it a tough test for the batsmen.
Harmer had Azhar Ali picked up at leg gully for 23 and sent back Byrom lbw, while Siddle scattered James Hildreth’s stumps to make it 118 for five.
Steve Davies was dropped first ball by wicketkeeper Adam Wheater, diving to his left, off Siddle, and at lunch Somerset were 127 for five, 260 runs ahead.
The afternoon session saw Tom Abell, on 27, pouched at leg-slip off Harmer, and after hitting Siddle for a six over deep square, Lewis Gregory perished for 11, well caught one-handed by Chopra at slip to give the off-spinner his fourth wicket.
Jamie Overton came out in positive mood, but had made only ten when bowled middle stump trying to lift Siddle over the short mid-wicket boundary.
Jack Leach fell cheaply and, although Steve Davies played sensibly for his 29, when he was caught at fine leg off Jamie Porter, Somerset’s total was short of making the game safe.
Essex sensed a chance. Openers Browne and Chopra, realising the spinners were the main danger, attacked the first six overs of seam, plundering 37 off Gregory and Josh Davey.
Skipper Abell had to introduce Leach and Bess before more damage could be done, but at tea Essex were 52 without loss, requiring a further 284, and well in the game.
Soon after the interval, Leach broke the opening stand on 58 as Chopra went leg-before for 24. But if Somerset thought that would open the floodgates for their two spinners they were in for a rude awakening.
Browne was already well set and, while left-armer Leach was getting some turn from the River End, there was little suggestion of movement off the pitch for off-spinner Bess.
With Westley offering sensible support, Browne moved to his half-century off 93 balls, hitting 9 fours, against an increasingly frustrated home attack.
Unless their spinners get more out of the track on the final day, Somerset could face a defeat in match they desperately need to win to close the gap on Championship leaders Surrey.