Taylor short of runs but New Zealand's fringe players shine
Somerset 204 and 142 for 6 (Hildreth 62*) require a further 202 to beat New Zealanders 237 and 310 (Santner 94, Groenewald 5-65)
New Zealand have become quite accustomed to winning over the last 18 months and are well on course to begin their tour of the UK with victory. Steered by their impressive captain for the match BJ Watling, who pushed the target over 300, and armed with a dangerous attack, they have given early indication of their threat to England in the Test series that begins on May 21. And this without seven members of their Test squad.
Somerset have provided fairly weak opposition but began their chase of 344 quite healthily, reaching 104 for 2 before collapsing in an alarming manner seen far too often this season. Offspinner Mark Craig struck twice in his first two overs before Doug Bracewell returned to do the same. At 123 for 6, a three-day finish was possible but James Hildreth's half-century steered the match into a final day and saved Somerset from a latest embarrassment. It is becoming a very difficult season already.
Craig, who gained bounce and turn to have Tom Abell well caught down the leg side before Jim Allenby slapped him to mid-on, could find his Test spot vulnerable if New Zealand opt to stack their pace attack although Brendon McCullum is known to like the option of a specialist spinner.
Much of the tourists' best work here has been done by players not in the Test squad, which either demonstrates a pleasing strength in depth or is a concern that those in line to play at Lord's largely failed here. Either way, New Zealand are very much up and running.
They enjoyed healthier batting practice in their second innings on day two, with a half-century for Test opener Tom Latham, but the third morning saw a return to the swinging conditions of Friday. It took the latest lower-order rally of the match to boost the target. New Zealand lasted another 52 overs on the third day but a majority of the runs were made by players not in line to feature against England.
Mitchell Santner, the left-handed No. 3, is one of those. He built on his overnight 70 but having spent seven overs in the 90s, drove at Craig Overton and was caught in the gully six short of a third first-class century. Craig also fell to Overton as Somerset hoped for a target blow 300 only for Watling, stand-in skipper here in perhaps a nod to the future, to ensure the target would be large enough for most observers to give the hosts little hope.
Watling is classically New Zealand. Impressively understated. Quietly going about his business. It is a fair argument to hail him the best wicketkeeper-batsman in red-ball world cricket at the moment - when AB de Villiers does not take the gloves. Here, he pushed the lead into more comfortable territory with a watchful and calm 110-ball innings, having initially taken 52 balls just to get to 12. Four short of a second half-century of the match, he fell to the fifth over of the second new ball, getting a faint edge behind.
Ben Wheeler, who has enjoyed a fine match so far and took the opening wicket of the chase, clubbed 33 in 16 balls with two sixes to see the tourists set 344.
Wheeler was last out to Tim Groenewald who completed a maiden five-wicket haul for Somerset, adding to his first-innings four to complete his best haul in a match of 9 for 136. It is fair to say Groenewald has not impressed since arriving at Taunton, initially on loan last season but handed a three-year deal, taking six first-class wickets in four matches prior to this fixture. But here, he showed the form that led to his signing from Derbyshire. It will have brought him back into contention to play at Nottinghamshire next week, having been left out of the defeat against Worcestershire after taking four wickets in the opening two matches of the season.
Groenewald polished off New Zealand's second innings that stumbled in the morning session. Ross Taylor, in the fifth over of the morning, played a loose drive outside off, and edged behind, completing a return of 42 in the match having looked very rusty and unsure around off stump. Alex Barrow took his second catch off Luke Ronchi, a fine diving effort down low to his right.
But Barrow failed with the bat in the fourth innings, continuing a poor run of form. He flashed at a short wide delivery from Bracewell and was caught at the second attempt by Taylor at first slip. His was the third of the four wickets in Somerset's late collapse. Peter Trego followed pushing outside off and edging behind.
Alex Winter is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo He tweets here