An excellent century from James Hildreth couldn’t prevent Somerset from falling just short of the follow-on target on the third day of the Specsavers County Championship match with Lancashire at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
Last season’s leading run-scorer in First Class cricket made 130 as his side fought unsuccessfully to avoid following-on, helping them to three batting bonus points after three wickets in an over from James Anderson had turned the tide in the visitors favour.
Jamie Overton contributed 51 to an eighth-wicket stand of 139, which frustrated Lancashire after Somerset had been reduced to 150 for seven.
They were eventually bowled out for 313 but thanks largely to Hildreth’s efforts, there was only time for one over of their second innings, negotiated successfully by nightwatchman Tim Groenewald.
The day began with the hosts 14 without loss, replying to Lancashire’s 493. The first ball of the second over saw Marcus Trescothick caught and bowled by Kyle Jarvis, having made only five. Chris Rogers joined Tom Abell and the pair took the score to 76 with few alarms before Abell fell lbw pushing forward to the left-arm spin of Simon Kerrigan.
It was 101 for two at lunch, Rogers having reached his first Championship half-century for Somerset off 80 balls with four fours. However, the 43rd over of the innings at the start of the afternoon session changed everything. The first delivery saw Rogers play forward to Anderson and depart to a catch at short cover. Anderson’s next delivery was straight, Roelof van der Merwe played around it and fell lbw. Peter Trego survived the hat-trick attempt, but the fifth ball struck him high on the pad and after some deliberation Alex Wharf raised the dreaded finger.
Anderson’s seven-over spell after lunch brought three for 19. Ryan Davies was stumped advancing down the pitch to Kerrigan and Craig Overton bowled by Kyle Jarvis.
Hildreth looked untroubled and at last found a reliable partner in Jamie Overton, who mixed his natural aggression with sensible defence as the pair mounted a recovery.
By tea Somerset had progressed to 206 for seven, with Hildreth on 66, having reached a 102-ball fifty, but still required 138 to avoid being asked to bat again.
They made a good fist of it, Hildreth moving to a chanceless and typically fluent hundred off 169 deliveries with his 12th four, a sumptuous cover drive off Anderson. Overton reached his fourth First Class half-century off 89 balls, with seven fours, and was within five of matching his career-best 56 when he was caught behind off a bottom edge looking to cut a wide ball from Wagner.
Jack Leach soon followed but Hildreth had almost ensured Somerset would not start their final innings until the final day when caught on the mid-wicket boundary, pulling a short delivery from Wagner.
After the close of play centurion Hildreth said: “They are a top class bowling attack and the wicket was pretty flat to be honest. There wasn’t a lot of spin out there, but they were aggressive all day and did well to bowl us out. They stuck to their guns and bowled us out so we are certainly in for a battle now.”
What was the key to his innings? “I was just thinking I needed to spend time out in the middle and build a partnership with someone,” he said. “We all know at Taunton that if you can get a partnership going and you can get some big scores it would have got us past the follow on and then, who knows. Then you have interim thoughts in your mind with targets for bonus points and stuff like that. Jamie and I were thinking like that- trying to get 200 then 250 together which helps. But really it was about getting time in the middle and the longer we were out there then the less time we might have to bat tomorrow.”
Hildreth was at the other end when James Anderson took three wickets in an over to change the game about which he said: “He is a very very good bowler and it was reversing a little bit and he put us under pressure and showed why on a flat wicket he is the best bowler around. It was a great spell.”
Talking about Jamie Overton he said: “ We all know he can bat and today he played a really mature innings. He showed that he is a really capable batsman and not just a guy who bowls at 90mph.”
Looking to tomorrow James said: “I am hugely confident we can save the game from here. We have got some good players and some hugely experienced guys who have played a lot of cricket on a wicket that isn’t offering a huge amount to the bowlers. All our batsmen will take confidence going into tomorrow and I 100% believe that we can save the game.”
— Somerset Cricket (@SomersetCCC) May 4, 2016