Middlesex 361 for 8 (Fuller 84*, Bailey 71, Harris 69*, Gubbins 67, Allenby 4-67) lead Somerset 236 by 125 runs
Jim Allenby routinely gets the sort of criticism in Somerset that would leave Andrea Leadsom penning a resignation speech. In fact, they would be piled knee high by now. If it is not social media condemnation, it is sarcasm on the boundary edge. He has a more-than-decent salary to help him deflect it, but it is draining all the same.
Somerset's NatWest Blast season has not gone well under Allenby's captaincy and, although they are currently out of the bottom two in the Championship, the pockets of ill will around the ground suggest that there is not a universal belief they will stay there. And when anger and pessimism shows itself, Allenby often gets the brunt of it. The belief has taken hold that he is bullet-proof and it does him no favours.
As a Western Australian, there is no Somerset heritage to protect him; at 33, he is not about to get the sympathy afforded to youth. Good days have been few and far in the last season and a half, but against Middlesex he had something to savour: his best bowling figures for Somerset in the Championship, 4 for 26 in 15.1 overs at one stage before the day shifted against the home side and, by the close of the second day, he was left looking at 4 for 67.
All the same, it was an opportunity for Somerset to spread some goodwill, but they are rarely the most enlightened of counties these days when it comes to media management. Allenby was unavailable for comment as was the director of cricket, Matt Maynard, who rushed into a committee meeting. And so the frustration of Somerset supporters will persist.
Even on a good day, it was hard for Allenby to celebrate. With Middlesex 212 for 8, still 24 behind, and Australia's George Bailey the last of his victims - out for 71, cutting at a ball too close to him - there was every reason to anticipate a cooling beer. But for Somerset the mood gradually deflated, as James Harris and James Fuller shared an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 149 in 41 overs, comfortably a record for Middlesex against Somerset, and including a career-best 84 not out for Fuller.
Fuller broke Allenby as the pitch flattened out, prospering square on the off side to begin with and then extended his game. The risk by Somerset's captain, Chris Rogers, to play on a green seamer, even though he knew Middlesex would have first bowl on it, had turned sour as Middlesex ended the day with a lead of 125. Somerset were not helped by the breakdown of Jamie Overton who abandoned an over before lunch and underwent examination on a back complaint. He is on Lions duty next week and until more is known must be regarded as doubtful.
"James and I came together at a tricky time, with us still 20-odd behind and the new ball due," Fuller said, "but the pitch played a lot easier than yesterday and we just needed to be patient and bat sensibly. We knew the bowlers were tired and, while the pitch was still green, there wasn't much seam movement. It had hardened up a lot."
At least Rogers, with three frontline Middlesex seamers missing, had looked his seam bowlers in the eye and asked them to deliver. Allenby could claim he had done just that. He is a bowler who prospers on the sort of seamer-friendly tracks that used to be the staple for county cricket, but which have now largely been eradicated by the ECB's new toss regulations. The change has not served him, or others of his type, well.
Allenby had three wickets by lunch as Somerset envisaged a first-innings lead. He began by dismissing Nick Gubbins for 67, Marcus Trescothick holding on at second slip as Gubbins drove at a wide one, slightly on the up. The ball that removed John Simpson for a duck, caught at the wicket, had more to commend it, rising a little from a decent length and line. The left-handed James Franklin left an inswinger and lost his off stump and there was a slip catch to dismiss Ollie Rayner for good measure.
Bailey was also dropped immediately after lunch off Allenby, Alex Barrow the culprit behind the stumps. It cost 27 runs, but more vitally it cost Somerset time. Had the catch been held, they might have been batting by the time the pitch quietened entirely. Ryan Davies, the wicketkeeper signed in the close season from Kent, is unavailable for selection for personal reasons.
When Allenby joined Somerset from Glamorgan ahead of the 2015 season, he asserted that as an allrounder the wrong side of 30 he needed to be winning trophies. But the step up to Division One Championship cricket has not come easily. He cops vitriol on social media and a coterie of supporters in front of the main pavilion have turned him into a figure of fun. For some, he has become a symbol of Somerset's shortcomings during the coaching stint of Maynard, the man who brought him to Taunton.
To some extent, county cricket has become over sensitive as independent coverage of the game has declined. This is now a world now largely controlled by county websites and the ECB. The message is forever positive. Just as Leadsom, a low-profile politician until a month ago, was shocked to discover the levels of criticism once she stood for the leadership of the Conservative party, so players graduating to England level can be shaken by the levels of analysis that follow.
As moderate as his record has been at Somerset, he must feel aggrieved to have been singled out. No one player is responsible for the failures of a team. The gossip around the Taunton crowd was how he had been goaded into calling one Somerset fan on Twitter "a knob".
Well, some of us have sinned in equal measure - and more often. But it is not so many years since Somerset advised Craig Kieswetter to stop tweeting and, although to impose that would be an unwelcome intrusion upon his civil liberties, he might conclude by his own volition that it would be a sensible thing to do. Arguing on Twitter but not talking to the media seems a strange way to go about things.