James Hildreth made his outside chance of an England Test call-up more likely with a stunning 150 as Somerset pushed towards victory against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
Hildreth, a regular England Lions performer, appeared in little trouble as he reach his third three figures of the season to give Somerset a 255 run first innings lead.
Former Hampshire batsman Johann Myburgh also scored a ton to leave the hosts in desperate trouble.
Myburgh, along with Marcus Trescothick, made scoring runs look simple as the sun glared over the south coast and the pitch hardened. The South African born batsman passed fifty in 88 balls before moving unhindered through to a 157-ball century after lunch.
The only wicket to fall in the morning session was that of Trescothick who edged a wide Ryan McLaren ball to Sean Ervine at second slip, ending a stand of 84. It was a rare positive for Hampshire who had been skittled out for 219 on the opening day, and saw their bowlers fail to hit their marks before lunch.
Myburgh and Hildreth added the match’s highest partnership for the third wicket of 167. Hildreth met his partner at the milestones in 68 and 125 balls – as he helped accelerate an already speedy run rate ahead to full batting points.
Myburgh eventually fell for 110 as he attempted to clear Tino Best at mid-off with a loft off Mason Crane. Jim Allenby and Peter Trego departed in a short burst of wickets before tea, the former leg before to a ball which nipped into him from Ryan McLaren, before Crane found the edge of Trego’s bat.
The evening session continued to go Somerset’s way despite Lewis Gregory becoming McLaren’s fourth victim, out lbw to a ball which seamed back. The South African had his five wicket haul when Hildreth was struck on the pads to one which jagged back.
Jamie Overton gave Best his first scalp of the match but twin Craig Overton and wicketkeeper Ryan Davies further took the game away from the hosts with an unbeaten 82 stand. Davies reached a rapid 39-ball fifty before Chris Rogers called them in to give Hampshire a tricky 10 over evening spell leaving Craig Overton on 35 not out.
The hosts then lost Jimmy Adams who played on to give Gregory his first wicket of the game.
Skipper Will Smith and Tom Alsop then saw them through to the close – still 237 in arrears.
After the close of play James Hildreth said: “You are always happy to get a score over 150 as you are always aiming for hundreds. Eventually I went at a really nice rate but at one point I was worried about getting off the mark. It took me about 24 balls or something which was painful. Once you get going you capitalise.
“The wicket was slow and you just take care of the bad balls. The runs started flowing which was nice. We all know how good a player Mybs is, he averaged over 40 in first class cricket. He had to wait a long time for his chance this season but I am not surprised at all he scored a hundred.
“The runs at the bottom of the order were massive as they help dent the opposition and their momentum. As a team it is up there with the best performances of the summer, if not the best, especially after getting Jimmy’s wicket at the end. It was a great day.
“Everyone looks at the forecast and there is a bit of rain around but you can’t play for the rain. (On England)
“It isn’t for me to mention England. I feel like I am scoring more runs than most which is nice. I feel in a good place so I am doing all I can do but there are some really good young cricketers around who have been scoring runs as well. It is an interesting state of affairs but I feel I am playing well.”