Gareth Batty bowled Surrey into a strong position on day two of the Specsavers County Championship game at the Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton.
The 38-year-old former England off-spinner returned figures of seven for 32 as Somerset were dismissed for 102. By the close, in their second innings, Surrey had reached 93 for 6, an overall lead of 256.
Resuming on their overnight total of 236 for eight, Surrey added another 28 runs before being bowled out for 264. Ben Foakes was bowled by an unplayable delivery from Craig Overton at 255 for nine before Stuart Meaker was last man out, caught at third slip by Overton off the bowling of Tim Groenewald.
In reply, Somerset made the perfect start with Tom Abell and Marcus Trescothick adding 46 for the first wicket inside 14 overs. However, when the former was trapped leg before by Meaker for 25 Somerset began to struggle. Trescothick followed his opening partner back to the pavilion in the very next over, when Batty picked up the first of his seven wickets.
Shortly afterwards, the in-form James Hildreth lost his middle stump to Meaker at 53 for 3 and although the lunch interval provided some respite, Somerset were back under pressure when captain Chris Rodgers was caught by Mathew Pillans off the bowling of Batty for 19.
With the ball turning and Somerset struggling to break free, wickets fell at an alarming regularity. Craig Overton, who was dropped by Rory Burns at slip off the first ball he faced, then edged Batty to the same fielder before wicket keeper Ryan Davies top-edged an attempted slog-sweep to Meaker at mid-wicket to leave Somerset on 93 for seven. Jim Allenby became Batty’s fifth victim, Jack Leach his sixth and finally Jamie Overton his seventh off the final ball of the 29th over.
Surrey decided against enforcing the follow on and in the hour that ensued, their decision came back to bite them. Having reached 17 for 0 in the eighth over, they were soon up against it at 51 for six. First innings bowling hero Jack Leach picked up the wickets of Rory Burns (8), Steven Davies (7) and Tom Curran (5), while Craig Overton sent back Arun Harinath (13) and Kumar Sangakkara (3). Jamie Overton weighed in with the wicket of Gary Wilson before Foakes and Zafar Ansari, who had earlier left the field when Surrey were fielding with an injured right thumb, added an unbeaten 43 for the seventh wicket. How valuable that proves to be, only time will tell.
However, their resilience means Surrey go into day three with a sizable lead and four second innings wickets in hand.
At the end of a day when 18 wickets fell at Taunton Matt Maynard said: “The wicket has spun today which we craved for in the matches against Lancashire and Yorkshire. I don’t think that we have acquitted ourselves as well as we could have and the last partnership showed what can be achieved if you pace yourselves and get stuck in and see yourselves through the tough little spell.
“At 46 without loss it looked quite good for us and that we might be able to get up to and beyond the Surrey total. However, Batty comes on and bowls a lovely spell and spun the ball obviously but we didn’t establish any partnerships after that first one, which was comfortably the best of our innings. Every now and then you have to credit the opposition but I think we made it a little bit easy for Batty today.
“I am disappointed because we have played some good cricket so far this year, and then to have that relapse is pretty disappointing. However, the boys showed some character and fought back and we know it’s going to be tough now to score the biggest innings total to win the game but if we establish partnerships and the guys show good resilience tomorrow you never know what can happen.”
Matt added: “We have got to keep believing we can finish Surrey off before lunch tomorrow and knock off the runs required in however many sessions it takes.”