Hampshire close in despite Thomas fight
Somerset 204 and 266 for 7 v Hampshire 627 for 9
Sean Ervine fell two short of a century as Hampshire cemented a winning position against Somerset on the third day of the County Championship match at Taunton.
Although Jimmy Adams could add only three to his overnight 204, the visitors still extended their first innings to 627 for 9 before declaring at lunch. Ervine hit 13 fours and Somerset found themselves needing 423 to avoid an innings defeat.
They slumped to 132 for 6, with James Tomlinson and Imran Tahir taking two wickets each. But acting captain Alfonso Thomas (79 not out) and teenage all-rounder Craig Meschede (53) salvaged some pride for the home side with a seventh-wicket stand of 134 to take the game into a fourth day.
Somerset closed on 266 for seven, still 157 behind, with Thomas having reached his highest first-class score in England - beating the 70 he made against the same opponents at Taunton in 2009 - and Meschede recording his maiden first-class half-century.
The youngster was dropped twice in reaching fifty off 86 balls, but showed his quality by hitting two sixes and five fours before being bowled by Dimitri Mascarenhas in the final over of the day. Hampshire had begun on 480 for four and quickly lost Adams, who became one of six victims for wicketkeeper Jos Buttler when edging Thomas. The opener had faced 410 balls and hit 29 fours and a six.
Buttler also took catches to remove Ervine, whose 98 came off only 119 balls, and Michael Bates (15) to add to his four second-day victims. The declaration, after a useful contribution of 30 by Mascarenhas, robbed him of a chance to equal Rob Turner's Somerset record of seven catches in an innings.
There was precious little to smile about for the Somerset bowlers as Murali Kartik returned one for 149 from 38 overs and Charl Willoughby also recorded an unwanted century, with three for 118 from 31 overs. The home side's second innings was soon in tatters as Arul Suppiah and Chris Jones were bowled shouldering arms and Alex Barrow fell to a sensational low slip catch by Michael Carberry, diving full length to his left. Tomlinson took two of the wickets and Chris Wood one.
James Hildreth (45), Buttler (35) and Peter Trego (32) all got starts without playing the necessary major innings. Tahir found plenty of turn from the River End to remove two of them and a three-day finish looked certain when Somerset went in to tea at 139 for 6. Thomas was dropped first ball, by Ervine at short-leg off Tahir, but then played with increasing confidence to reach fifty off 76 balls, with a six and six fours, and added five more boundaries before the close.