<
>

Somerset's old seafarers scupper Middlesex

Somerset 236 and 348 for 6 (Trescothick 124, Trego 115*, Podmore 3-75) lead Middlesex 381 (Fuller 93, Harris 78, Bailey 71, Gubbins 67, Allenby 4-67) by 203 runs
Scorecard

Middlesex will anticipate the final day of four at Taunton and reflect that on such days are Championships won and lost. With Warwickshire getting little change from the bottom club Hampshire, there is a chance to extend their lead at the top, but Somerset's lead of 203 with four wickets remaining makes victory in the balance. A tense day lies in prospect.

When Middlesex took a first-innings lead of 145 and then removed four Somerset wickets before conceding the lead, their hopes must have been high that they could be well on the way to their third win of the season which would be quite an achievement for an attack lacking Toby Roland-Jones, Steven Finn and Tim Murtagh: 76 wickets between them.

Instead, they ran aground on both sides of tea against familiar foes as centuries from Marcus Trescothick and Peter Trego lifted Taunton spirits. For 40 overs, as they crashed and carved 181 runs, West Country cricket had a smile on its face again. Middlesex's stand-in seamers have much to commend them, but they deteriorated under pressure and as a green pitch became firm and true their hold over the match weakened.

Here are two fine servants of Somerset cricket: the gentle roll of Trescothick, ambling around the crease with the contentment of a jolly sailor reaching dry land after a satisfying day's fishing in the Bristol Channel, and the piratical figure of Trego, who is more likely to dock with cutlass and eye patch. They offer fine entertainment, even on a day when a chill wind is whistling around the Quantocks.

Trescothick's 48th first-class century for Somerset takes him second in the county's all-time list, his innings coming to grief on 124 when James Harris had him caught at the wicket with a delivery of tight line. His latest landmark leaves him just one century behind the great Harold Gimblett, a batsman from five centuries of Quantocks farming stock.

Trego, the great entertainer, only averages about one hundred a year - destructive 40s and 60s are more his metier - but he played with great certainty and remained 115 not out at the close. To reach his first century of the season, he needed a let-off by John Simpson, the wicketkeeper, on 81, a chance high to his right off James Fuller.

Trego said; "It was my 200th game and I never thought I would get to this point. But having been around for such a long time, I have had to make sure that my game has evolved. I needed to dig in for the team and I felt I did that today.

"Tres and I have got a great rapport, but a lot of our better partnership[s have been in one day cricket. With Marcus not playing one day games anymore, we don't often get the chance to bat together. So, yes, it was enjoyable."

Fuller, resuming on 84, had failed to achieve his maiden Championship hundred before lunch, falling nine short when he edged Tim Groenewald to first slip. James Harris fell in identical fashion, their ninth-wicket stand stretched to 162 in 46 overs, and the match in Middlesex's grasp.

There was talk of a three-day win as Middlesex, led by three wickets for Harry Podmore, worked through Somerset's second innings. No batsman likes to lose his middle stump because of a leave alone, but Johann Myburgh could at last reflect that he was beaten by a ball that came back sharply and which he might have felt he could fairly leave on length alone.

Chris Rogers - the captain who had risked a greentop, knowing that Somerset would have to have first bat on it - had reason to be doubly frustrated about his duck, guiding Podmore to his former Australian team-mate George Bailey at point. Spin has played a minor role on this pitch, but Ollie Raynor chipped in with the wicket of James Hildreth thanks to a sharp catch at slip from James Franklin.

Trescothick, as he has so often, welcomed each new partner with equanimity, a figure of certainty while change happened all around hm. Jim Allenby first provided support until he pulled Podmore to mind-on. Then came Trego and Taunton put its gripes and grievances aside and soaked up the entertainment.