Dom Bess continued the spectacular start to his Specsavers County Championship career as Somerset strengthened their title challenge on the second day of the match against Nottinghamshire at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
The 19-year-old off-spinner hit 41 to ensure a fourth batting point after his side began the day on 322 for nine, then claimed five for 43 from 22.5 overs to help shoot out the visitors for 138. Jack Leach also took three for 42.
Bess now has combined figures of 13 for 102 in his first three Championship innings as a bowler, having claimed eight for 59 on his debut in the competition against Warwickshire earlier this month.
With a first innings lead of 227, Somerset elected not to enforce the follow-on and closed on 105 for two, having lost openers Marcus Trescothick (39) and Tom Abell.
The day began with the hosts needing 28 from their last wicket pair to reach 350 and secure the extra point which would put added pressure on Middlesex and Yorkshire. Bess and Leach did better than that, taking the score to 365 before Bess drove a catch to short cover off Samit Patel, having dominated a stand of 43. Jake Ball finished with six for 57 for Notts.
Having lost five wickets for no runs the previous evening, Somerset were grateful to regain momentum and soon had a breakthrough as Steven Mullaney, on five, was well caught by Abell at backward-point off Lewis Gregory. Nottinghamshire were 35 for one at lunch, with Bess having sent down five maidens. Only three runs had been added when Tom Moores, on ten, lost patience against the young spinner and edged to slip. Jake Libby made 42 to help take the score to 91, but he was then caught off bat and pad advancing down the pitch to Bess, who quickly followed up by taking a sharp return catch to his left to send back Michael Lumb for 29.
It was 108 for five when Patel was stumped stretching forward defensively to Bess and the Notts slump continued when Chris Read was run out for four by Max Waller’s throw to the wicketkeeper from point after Billy Root had called for a quick single. Waller was fielding as substitute for James Hildreth after Somerset’s heroic first day centurion had been found to have a fractured ankle, sustained early in that innings.
At tea, the visitors were 120 for six and they lost two more wickets in the first over after the interval, Leach having Root caught off bat and pad before Matt Carter drove his first ball to mid-off where Craig Overton took a low catch. Without a run added, Brett Hutton looked to loft Bess over mid-on and Overton took a well-judged catch with the ball dropping over his shoulder.
A couple of lusty blows from Imran Tahir boosted the meagre Notts total before Ball fell lbw to Bess reverse sweeping. For the second successive home game the Somerset youngster left the field holding the ball up to the appreciative crowd.
Despite losing Abell, lbw on the back foot to Hutton for ten, and Trescothick, who edged off-spinner Carter to slip, Somerset led by 332 at the close and remain right in the thick of the title chase.
After the close of play Dom said: “For the team it doesn’t come much better than that and it’s nice to be putting in performances for the side, which is what it is all about here. We have now got to go and bat big and have a chance in the fourth innings. Last night we had a couple of words but at the end of the day we had a positive day scoring 322 and obviously we had to get to 350 and Leachy and I did it.
“To be honest Leachy kept coming to me ball by ball and saying don’t get carried away, as I just wanted to smash it through the covers. However at the end of the day it’s all about the team and Leachy came down and said to keep taking it ball by ball and was really good with me. He hung around as well because for him it was pretty tricky facing Tahir as a lefty. It was awesome that we got the runs.”
What is the secret bowling on this wicket? “I just kept on bowling my best ball,” he said. “I spoke to Jason Kerr, our bowling coach, about getting good revs on it which gets the flight and obviously if you land it in a good area then you have always got a chance. Especially with our fielders at the moment, who have been outstanding.”
Director of Cricket Matt Maynard said: “It’s been a terrific team performance today after that 20 minutes or so last night. The spin twins saw us to 350 this morning and then we capitalized on that and I thought that our discipline with the ball was superb. We made the Notts batsmen work all the way through their innings and made it really tough for them. I think that the wicket is slowly getting harder and harder to bat on.”
Regarding the decision not to enforce the follow-on Matt said: “It was quite a simple decision because I think that the follow-on is over rated and you wouldn’t want to be chasing 140 against Imran Tahir on that wicket on the fourth day. It was quite a simple cricketing decision really.”