Lancashire 133 (Croft 41, Leach 5-47) and 28 for 0 trail Somerset 335 (Davies 111; Parkinson 4-68) by 174 runs
Tom Abell is an honest fellow whose guileless loyalties have been pledged early. Perhaps his most precious public allegiance is to Somerset cricket.
It was merely to be expected that the captain would be delighted when his side took the wicket of Haseeb Hameed, as stubborn a batsman as they come, on the second morning of this game. By the close of a rain-shortened day Abell had many other reasons for joy: the dismissal of Hameed, vital as it was, could be viewed as merely the prelude to one of Somerset's best afternoons of their championship season. Jack Leach saw to that.
A very classy 5 for 47 by Leach, the spinner who looks like an archivist, supported by a couple of wickets for Craig Overton, the Instow Obelisk, dismissed Lancashire for 133, 202 behind, and has given Somerset supporters further hope they might drag themselves above Middlesex or Yorkshire in the bottom half of the First Division table.
Such optimism was shared by the many former players on this ground where the past is rarely distant, always honoured and frequently loved. Many of them stayed to watch Leach complete his haul from the River End and most remained to see the follow-on enforced. Before 5.30 Hameed was batting again; this was a dramatic day by the Tone and its consequences may be felt well beyond the pastoral tartan of the Quantocks.
Yet the gleeful abandon with which Abell had leapt into the arms of Peter Trego when Hameed top-edged a hook to George Bartlett at long leg revealed more than the skipper's character. It also suggested a ploy had worked and that it had snared a batsman Somerset's players were particularly keen to remove.
One saw their point. A week ago Hameed made 85 not out against Essex on a day when the entire Lancashire side could have been dismissed for 70. Now he had settled in to do something similar, pushing four singles in 70 minutes before he was gulled into indiscretion. Having tested Hameed with line and length, Trego sent down a very straight bouncer which the batsman attempted to hook. Bartlett did the rest and Marcus Trescothick scampered down the pitch like a schoolboy to offer his congratulations to more or less everyone.
The photograph of Abell hugging Trego adorned the Taunton scoreboard over lunch although by then Somerset had taken three wickets for 61 runs thus strengthening the view that their own first-innings 335 was considerably better than par. The first had fallen in Lancashire's fifth over when Alex Davies was undone for 2 by a good ball from Overton which straightened up on the opener, inducing an edge to Trescothick at second slip. By the break Liam Livingstone had gone too, caught at slip by Overton for 21 when he came down the pitch to Leach but only got himself horribly tangled up by the flight of the ball.
But no sooner had Somerset supporters been buoyed by the news of another delay at Uxbridge and Surrey's run-glut at the Oval than rain fell at Taunton. The showers which had not fallen at Withypool or Twitchen up on Exmoor fell on the County Ground. The Quantocks were shawled in mist and for a while any resumption seemed improbable.
But when cricket began again after a three-hour rain delay it did so with a clatter of Lancashire wickets and West Country voices raised in rich salute. Leach's removal of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, caught at short-leg by a boyishly delighted Trescothick, was followed exactly an over later by that of Steven Croft, who was well beaten just outside the off stump by Overton and could only nick a catch to Steve Davies.
Those wickets accelerated a Lancastrian decline which saw them lose their last seven wickets for 51 runs in 22 overs. By doing so they probably sent their last hopes of the title to local rubbish tip. Yet while visiting batsmen can be judged culpable - Dane Vilas's swat at Tim Groenewald was a particular unpleasantness - nothing should detract from the classical effectiveness of Leach. Varying his pace and obtaining plenty of turn, he bowled a befuddled Stephen Parry, had Kyle Jarvis caught by Davies and trapped Ryan Mclaren leg before to end the innings. Dom Bess's off-spin was a perfect foil for his colleague and the pair have now taken 85 wickets in eight and a half first-class games for Somerset.
The day ended in gleaming sunshine with the Lancashire openers defending for all they were worth. Visiting supporters had to be satisfied with that successful rearguard and they will pin their hopes on a revival of the resilience which has distinguished their team's season. The title has all but gone but honour remains to be protected.
Evening advances in Somerset. Dusk brims the shadows now at Taunton. The lights will soon be warming the halls of The Castle Hotel and the town's many restaurants will be preparing to greet custom. Yet it is not fanciful to think the diners will be discussing Jack and Dom, who have taken 85 wickets in the eight and a half matches they have played together. They will be pondering the possibility that Somerset's cricketers might salvage something from the troubles of a disappointing season. These are warm and welcoming people; they hold fast to strong loyalties and deep wisdom. It is no wonder that Taunton-born cricketers like Tom Abell and Jack Leach feel at home among them.