Duckett maiden ton turns match
Somerset 314 and 38 for 0 trail Northamptonshire 448 for 9 dec. (Duckett 144*, Thomas 4-116) by 96 runs
Ben Duckett's maiden first-class century turned the match at Taunton and gave Northamptonshire a rare victory opportunity going into the final day.
When the 19-year-old wicketkeeper walked to the crease, the division's bottom side were 194 for 6 and still 120 behind on first innings. By the time they declared on 448 for 9, it was with a lead of 134 and the England Under-19 player unbeaten on 144.
Duckett, whose previous best first-class score was 56, reached his hundred with a six over midwicket off Alfonso Thomas and went on to clear the ropes twice more as well as hitting 14 fours in his 210-ball innings.
Solid support from James Middlebrook, who made 61, helped build a healthy advantage against a Somerset team who looked as though the end of the season could not come quickly enough. By the close, the hosts had reached 38 without loss in their second innings from nine overs.
The third day began with Northants on 135 for 4. They progressed to 173 before Adam Rossington was caught behind for 27, driving at Thomas. Rob Keogh pulled a six off Lewis Gregory on his way to 34 before edging Thomas to second slip where Marcus Trescothick took a comfortable catch.
Somerset looked to be on top at lunch, which was taken with Northants 214 for 6 and still trailing by 100. But the afternoon session saw Duckett and Middlebrook complete a century stand in 31.5 overs.
Duckett was first to 50 off 93 balls, with five fours, while Middlebrook reached the same landmark off 104 deliveries, with seven boundaries and brought the 300 up with a pulled four off Craig Overton. The partnership was worth 117 when Middlebrook misjudged a back-foot shot off Peter Trego and was caught at cover by Gregory.
David Willey was bowled for 8 having a swing at left-arm spinner Jack Leach and tea was reached with Northants 344 for 8 and Duckett on 73.
Andrew Hall proved a reliable partner and contributed 31 to a ninth-wicket stand of 57 before falling lbw on the front foot to Thomas, whose four wickets took him past 50 in first-class cricket this season.
If Somerset thought their troubles were over at 384 for 9, Duckett had other ideas. After reaching his ton in spectacular style, the diminutive youngster went on the attack, dominating an unbroken last-wicket stand of 64 with Azharullah, who made only 5.
Twice Duckett blasted Johann Myburgh for sixes as Somerset's fielding fell apart. He was dropped on 117 and 134, the latter error by Thomas off a skyer to mid-on being greeted by hoots of derision from home supporters. Duckett rode his luck, also surviving a number of lbw appeals and playing and missing every now and then, to the frustration of the Somerset attack, but he left the field to a deserved ovation after an innings he will long remember.
The declaration on Northants' highest score of the season left Somerset with a tricky period to negotiate but Trescothick and Myburgh looked in little trouble.
A delighted Duckett said: "I'm very happy. I didn't get runs in the last game but have been working hard on my technique. I had a bit of luck today and tried to cash in on it at the end of my innings. I've come in at a similar stage in a few games this year and got starts without managing a big score. I was in the fifties for a while today because I was concentrating hard on going on.
"I hope it proves a breakthrough innings for me. I've made hundreds before but not on the big stage. Now I know how to build an innings, fingers crossed I can take this form forward with me. Some balls kept low and others popped a bit. There was also swing so if we can have a good first session tomorrow we should be able to put Somerset under pressure."
Somerset's Trego added: "We had some incredibly bad luck. It was the sort of day that happens once every couple of years because our bowlers went so close to wickets on so many occasions.
"The pitch is tired and slow. Northants will have to bowl well to win the game, but we know they have some quality performers. Some of the intensity went out of our play as they built a lead that meant we couldn't win the game."