Somerset's surge threatens to throw title race open

Somerset 107 for 1 (Rogers 58*) trail Yorkshire 145 (Bresnan 38*, Allenby 3-16, Overton 3-38) by 38 runs

What price Somerset for their first Championship? Their rush through the division has been a sideshow at best as Middlesex and Yorkshire have flexed muscles like a couple of rival bodybuilders ahead of their clash at Lord's next week. It looks a whole lot different now.

Somerset started the penultimate round of matches 18 behind Yorkshire with the leaders Middlesex a further point ahead, but they suddenly have the potential to throw calculations into disarray after dismissing Yorkshire for 145 at Headingley and settling their own innings in reply, losing only Tom Abell for a second-ball nought before Marcus Trescothick and Chris Rogers cut the deficit to 38 runs at stumps.

There is much cause for satisfaction in the West Country. Somerset's pace attack swung the ball on a clammy day, there was a bit more in the pitch than might have been expected - both sides would have batted on it - and Craig Overton and Jim Allenby prospered with three wickets each as they never relinquished the pressure.

Faced by consistent probing, Yorkshire exacerbated their problems with some ill-judged strokes. Gary Ballance, Jake Lehmann and Andrew Gale, among the top six, should all be disappointed by the manner of their dismissal. This was more a case of too many slack dismissals than general irresponsibility.

As a bonus, Somerset would love to see Middlesex's match at Old Trafford develop into a stalemate and, with draw points suiting Lancashire's attempts to retain their first division status, such an outcome would not be altogether surprising.

Somerset have had to make do with three second-placed finishes in the Championship and they would also be excluded from any T20 city league should it come to pass, leaving a dubious outcome in that Cardiff, a city with a comparatively big ground but a limited interest in the game, would be viewed as more strategically important than Taunton, the county town of a region where cricket is talked about as avidly as anywhere in the country: Yorkshire included. To win their first Championship in this of all years would be one of the finest two-finger responses in cricket history.

In Jason Gillespie's first Division One game at Headingley, in 2013, Yorkshire were dismissed by Sussex for 96 and went on to lose the game. It remains the only Championship match that Yorkshire have lost at Headingley in Gillespie's reign, but there is a danger that he could finish as he started - and a possible hat-trick of titles could disappear in the process.

This was the day when Somerset needed their pace attack to retain their conviction and Overton set an example from the outset, removing the in-form Alex Lees for a duck with the assistance of Allenby at first slip.

Gary Ballance's obsession with the guide wide of slips is becoming more of a caricature shot than a signature shot. His mental muddle occurred in Overton's fifth over with the slips still heavily populated; Lewis Gregory, at third slip, fumbled, but the ball slowed after deflecting off his body and he rescued it by his bootstraps.

If Overton was industrious, Allenby's economy was even more startling as he took three wickets and went for barely one an over. Lyth, who scrapped more than most, was the first, a decent delivery and a keeper's catch, and he was to produce two more later: Adil Rashid transfixed as the ball left him and a wonderful delivery to unpick Andy Hodd for nought as nipped away to strike off stump.

In between, Lehmann and Gale would have left with self-admonishment. They had rebuilt Yorkshire's innings with a stand of 49, but Lehmann, after some sumptuous off-side drives, pulled Peter Trego to midwicket on the stroke of lunch and Gale, who had looked solid alongside him, cut weakly at Overton.

Had Lehmann been held by Gregory at third slip off Tim Groenewald before he had scored, Yorkshire's plight would have been worse. As it was, Tim Bresnan batted staunchly for an unbeaten 38 to give them some chance of pulling the match round.

Evening sunshine did not help those chances as conditions eased somewhat and Trescothick and Rogers met the challenge with aplomb. Yorkshire have rarely needed Headingley to live up to its reputation as a haven for swing bowling more than they do now. Never mind the forecast September record of 25C: what about the cloud cover?