Rogers ensures Somerset do all they can, now must watch and wait
Somerset 365 (Hildreth 135, Rogers 132, Ball 6-57) and 313 for 5 dec (Rogers 100*, Davies 59, Trego 55, Patel 3-95) beat Nottinghamshire 138 (Bess 5-43, Leach 3-42) and 215 (Root 66*, Leach 4-69, Van der Merwe 3-59) by 325 runs
It is a hard world in which you do almost all that is asked of you only to find it is not quite enough. That, though, may be Somerset's fate at some stage on Friday afternoon.
Chris Rogers and his players prepared for this game knowing that all they could do was beat Nottinghamshire and hope things went their way at Lord's. That first task was completed at just before five o'clock when Imran Tahir skied Jack Leach ten yards behind the bowler and Peter Trego ran in to take the catch and complete the home side's facile 325-run win.
The margin of victory did no justice to Somerset's superiority. They had won with a day and an hour to spare. For the first time this season they were top of the table. And yet their leadership may not last 24 hours.
For the one point Somerset did not take from this game may determine their final fate. Their collapse late on the first day and their subsequent failure to collect five batting points meant if Yorkshire scored 350 runs inside 110 overs of their first innings and defeated Middlesex, Andrew Gale's team would be champions. A Middlesex win was always going to take the title to Lord's.
So when the admirable Ryan Sidebottom clipped that boundary off Toby Roland-Jones the news spread rather quickly among Somerset's supporters as they strolled on the County Ground's outfield during the tea interval on what became the final afternoon of the season.
And when Sidebottom and Jack Brooks took early wickets in Middlesex's second innings their gloom deepened still more. As far as Somerset are concerned, of course, Sidebottom has form. It was he whose tough tail-end batting partly accounted for their being denied the Championship in 2010.
Now, here he was again, admirable, accomplished and annoying. Exactly the opposite of most of Nottinghamshire's cricketers in this game.
It is, of course, not quite settled yet. Somerset's players and supporters will gather at the County Ground on the final day of the season, taking comfort from togetherness and praying beyond all cricketing logic that Yorkshire intransigence meets Middlesex cussedness to produce a glorious stalemate. Rarely, perhaps, can a group of sportsmen have gathered to watch a match burning with desire to see nothing happen and nobody win.
It is a long shot but it is all that Somerset are left with. Well, maybe not quite. They are left with memories of a season which began at Chester-le-Street with swans on the Wear, spring barely a suggestion and their cricket in need of surgery. Yet five months later Somerset's players were receiving a standing ovation from their supporters after this last game of the season.
The poignancy of the autumn equinox was momentarily lost in the shared satisfaction of a campaign that will see Somerset finish no lower than second in the table. The ground staff were hugged and the spectators who had packed the stands saluted. Whatever happens tomorrow that counts for a great deal. This is not just a lovely ground; these are - the vast majority of them - lovely people.
And at the end of it all Rogers confirmed that this would be his last game of professional cricket. At lunchtime spectators had risen to acclaim Rogers' second century of the match and the 76th of his first-class career and now they will not see him score another run. But these wise, warm, appreciative folk were applauding more than Rogers' hundreds.
Somerset are losing more than an accomplished opener, albeit that their captain's powers are not quite what they were. Rogers is quite a small man yet he is a giant. Somerset's transformation from the uncertain, slapdash side that took the field at Chester-le-Street to the confident group of cricketers who outclassed Nottinghamshire has been mainly his work.
That was clear in the way Somerset batted on the third day of this game and in their brilliant fielding during the afternoon.
In the morning session Somerset scored 208 runs off 32 overs, thereby extending their 332-run overnight lead to a mammoth 540, a score which it seemed unlikely the current Nottinghamshire batting line-up might make in two innings. But declarations these days are based on the same principle that informs daytime TV adverts: you can never have too much insurance.
And at least the first two hours' cricket saw Peter Trego and Rogers reach a thousand Championship runs for the seasons, achievements which were rather more than statistical flotsam. Trego has successfully brought a new discipline to his batting this season while Rogers become one of the many Australians who have made a noble contribution to Somerset cricket.
That group includes great players like Sammy Woods, the Australian anglophile, who had the habit of burying bottles of ale on the route of his country walks in Somerset and digging them up when in need of refreshment; or Bill Alley who, so the late Peter Roebuck testified, would arrive at pre-season nets having worked the winter on his farm and drop his first delivery at April's nets on a sixpence just outside off stump.
Rogers' achievement has been different. However Somerset's season ends, much of the credit should go to this tough, approachable Sydneysider, who has addressed his team's deficiencies and toughened his players up.
Nottinghamshire were set 541 to win and never suggested they could get near their target. Only Billy Root's 66 showed anything like the necessary application; the rest of Chris Read's players were on a different highway. Perhaps it was the road to nowhere. Until Root batted well, the visitors' performance in this game had recalled The Two Jakes, Jack Nicholson's follow up to Chinatown. But there was nothing Messrs Libby and Ball could do to prevent their side being hammered on this last afternoon.
Somerset's players, by contrast, were purposeful and dynamic. Substitute fielder Max Waller's direct hit ran out Libby for 26 and Trego's sharp throw inflicted a similar fate on Tom Moores. When Roelof van der Merwe trapped Michael Lumb leg before with the second ball after tea, a three-day finish became probable. Jack Leach's four wickets made it a reality. Root collected his half century and very soon afterwards his colleagues collected their kit and went home. There is a lot for the Trent Bridge hierarchy to ponder.
Somerset's players, by contrast, will turn up at the County Ground on the final day of the season ready to ride an emotional switchback. Who knows what awaits them and their recently-retired skipper, a true leader of men?