Blackwell puts Somerset ahead
Somerset 385 for 7 (Blackwell 104*, Trescothick 65, Trego 58, Hildreth 50, Tahir 3-125) lead Hampshire 316 by 69 runs
After a full day's play - finally - Somerset enjoyed a good six hours and effectively shut Hampshire out of the match, going into the final day. Ian Blackwell hit a responsible rather than devastating century, and was backed by his team-mates all the way down the order. It remains to be seen whether the bowlers can do their bit to win the match on the final day - and if the weather will let them.
Somerset had looked good in running to 42 without loss overnight, and that is how they continued briefly when play started 30 minutes late after overnight rain. In the second over of the day, Marcus Trescothick drove a ball from Dimitri Mascarenhas straight for four, and repeated the shot in the bowler's next over. Mascarenhas was rather erratic, while James Tomlinson, left-arm over and slanting the ball away from the batsman, was more awkward to play. He was perhaps fortunate to take the first wicket, that of Arul Suppiah, adjudged lbw for 26. The total was still on 55 when Zander de Bruyn, his feet set in concrete, slashed at a ball in Tomlinson's next over with a diagonal bat and succeeded in dragging it on to his stumps.
Trescothick decided on caution now, but even so he edged a ball that fell just short of the slips. James Hildreth had no such inhibitions and made an enterprising start. Until he reached 40 he was scoring at virtually a run-a-ball, using his feet well and driving the ball skilfully. Tresothick found David Balcombe's bowling to his liking, twice cutting him for four, and went to his 50 off 103 balls, despite surviving an impassioned lbw appeal from Imran Tahir that sounded like the exact replica of the reaction of thousands of 16-year-old children to receiving their exam results today.
Just before lunch, Trescothick hoisted a ball from Liam Dawson over long-on for six, but next ball he swept fatally, skying a catch to midwicket and departing for 65. Hildreth, now into the forties, suddenly ran out of gas and struggled to his fifty after the interval. It finally took him 81 balls, and he was not to face another: as non-striker, he tried to steal a single with Wes Durston, only for Dawson to swivel at cover and throw the stumps down in brilliant fashion.
Blackwell batted with uncharacteristic reticence until he reached 16, whereupon he decided he was ready to drive Tahir straight for six. He lost Durston, lbw sweeping at Tahir for 21, and went to his 50 off 89 balls, briskly but not with the devastation that accompanies his rather exaggerated, rustic-slogger reputation. Craig Kieswetter (28) kept him good company and batted briskly until tea, but fell to the final delivery before the interval, caught bat-pad off Tahir.
Peter Trego hammered his first ball through the covers for three, and continued in the same vein, subjecting Tahir to his slog-sweep, one of which went for six. It is not often Blackwell is overshadowed in a partnership, but Trego achieved this, taking just 39 balls to reach a dynamic 50. The pair added 88 for the seventh wicket, taking Somerset ahead before Trego swung across the line to the long-suffering Tahir and was trapped lbw for 58. At 339 for 7, Somerset were now 23 ahead.
Somerset bat well down the order, and Alfonso Thomas was the next to display his batting skill, in partnership with Blackwell, who was nearing his responsible century. A misfield, allowing a four through midwicket, brought him to three figures off 168 balls, with a six and only nine fours. The pair were still together at the close, but their bowlers will need to turn in an equally good performance to be able to win this match outright on the final day. The task is possible, but will not be easy after the loss of so much time, even with good weather.