Five wickets from Somerset’s Jack Leach plus an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 70 between Rikki Clarke and Chris Wright of Warwickshire set up the prospect of an exciting third-day finish to this Specsavers County Championship match at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
The visitors closed day two on 131 for eight, needing a further 53 for victory having been 61 for eight at one stage, chasing a target of 184. Left-arm spinner Leach claimed five for 33 from 18 overs as Somerset chased a victory of their own.
Clarke was unbeaten on 42 and Wright 38 not out, having come together with their team on the verge of defeat. Both hit sixes in a defiant and positive partnership.
Earlier, Jeetan Patel had finished with five for 86 as Somerset, from an overnight 41 for one, were bowled out for 211 in their second innings, skipper Chris Rogers top-scoring with 58.
After 21 wickets had fallen on the first day it was batting errors, rather than any great terrors in the pitch, which accounted for the vast majority of wickets. There was assistance for seam and spin bowlers on both days, but also a large number of soft dismissals, which both sides will reflect on with regret.
Somerset led by 13 runs when play began and had progressed their second innings to 70 when Marcus Trescothick, on 25, had his off stump uprooted by Patel. James Hildreth made only a single before falling lbw to a Chris Wright delivery that nipped back off the seam. From 75 for three Somerset prospered, Rogers reaching a 123-ball half-century, and Peter Trego hitting sixes off Patel and Josh Poysden.
The home side looked well placed at lunch, which was taken with their score 128 for three. But Patel began the afternoon session by gaining lbw verdicts against Trego (31) and Rogers after a fourth-wicket stand of 55. Leg-spinner Josh Poysden weighed in with three for 52 as only Dom Bess (25) offered much lower order resistance. Although the ball was turning, Warwickshire would have fancied their chances when their second innings began.
Instead, a mixture of good bowling and inept batting saw them slump to 49 for six. Leach ripped the heart out of the innings by sending back Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell for a combined contribution of five runs before having Alex Mellor caught at short-leg for 22.
Bess removed Sam Hain and Keith Barker, both pouched by Marcus Trescothick who with the second dismissal equalled the record number of catches in first-class cricket by a Somerset outfielder. Just when it seemed Somerset were sure to wrap up victory, Clarke and Wright produced the biggest stand of the match, putting the state of the pitch firmly in perspective.
Afterwards Jack Leach said: “It has been a crazy two days and obviously it’s going to be an exciting finish. On this ground it seems that there are stages where it does quite a bit and then other times when it doesn’t do quite so much, so you go with it and do as well as you can through those periods when there is nothing really happening and I think we did that well.
“They have had a good partnership and both played well but will have to come back in the morning when we know the ball will do a little bit more. Bowling the last over tonight from that other end there was just a little bit more spin for me so I am hopeful we can finish them off tomorrow.”
“All of our bowlers will have a chance to rest up and go again in the morning. They still need 50 odd which is a lot of runs and we will give it everything. Chris batted brilliantly and it was nice for him to get some runs and they were crucial in terms of us having something to bowl at and he played really well.”
Regarding passing 50 wickets for a season he said: “I feel quite proud about that and it was a crazy little period for me going past 50 first-class then 50 championship wickets and then got my five fer. I had it in my mind that is what I wanted to do and I am really happy. Hopefully there are still a few more to take for me.”