Somerset 429 and 51 for 0 trail Lancashire 492 (Vilas 235*, Jennings 109, Abell 4-43) by 12 runs
Samuel Beckett might enjoy watching Dane Vilas bat. Just when you think he can't go on, he goes on. Unlike the eponymous character in Beckett's novel, however, one doubts Somerset's cricketers consider Vilas the unnamable. On the contrary, they probably had some pretty ripe names for him on the third evening of this game, albeit they may not be good out-loud words.
One sees their point. When Lancashire were eventually bowled out, deep in the evening session of this hot day, they had taken an improbable lead of 63 runs. More to the point, 235 of their 492 first-innings runs had been mercilessly plundered by Vilas, a batsman who seems not to know fatigue and who regards a century as the end of his beginning, an opening gambit, an opportunity.
Vilas is a serial converter. Having reached three figures on 17 occasions, he has now made nine scores in excess of 150 and four double centuries. More remarkably still, Vilas has never been dismissed between 100 and 120. His innings against Somerset illustrated his ruthlessness. Having put on a mere 201 for the third wicket with Keaton Jennings, Vilas remained at the crease while Lancashire's total was nearly doubled, adding 102 for the sixth wicket with Jordan Clark and 49 for the tenth with Matt Parkinson.
He had opened his account on Saturday with a couple of sixes off Jack Leach but hit only eight fours in reaching three figures. Then he tore the flagging Somerset attack apart in the hour before lunch, levying ten more fours in getting to 150. Before long we had almost forgotten that Jennings had made his first hundred in 43 first-class innings.
Somerset thought they had chances late in the morning session when they removed Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Steven Croft cheaply. Then Vilas reasserted his mastery and, like an implacable bailiff, took everything away from them. He and Clark dominated the afternoon session so the sudden tumble of four wickets just before tea came as something of a surprise, not least because all of them were taken by the Somerset skipper Tom Abell, who nearly doubled his first-class tally in the space of 12 balls.
Abell is a medium-pacer who runs up with the genial good-nature of a chap who doesn't really go in for this bowling lark but is always happy to help the side out, doncha know. The reality is rather different. A tight off-stump line is kept and if you play down the wrong line, as Clark did, you lose your pole.
Two overs later Abell took three wickets in five balls as Lancashire declined to 443 for 9. Joe Mennie was bowled, Tom Bailey was leg before and James Anderson was caught at the wicket first ball. Abell smiled at all and sundry, as if to say that a career-best 4 for 43 was absolutely tickety-boo but surely old Jack deserved some more wickets.
One tended to agree. Leach may yet wake in the cold and lonely hours before dawn and imagine he is bowling to Vilas. A similar sensation may afflict Lewis Gregory who dropped Lancashire's linchpin in the gully when the batsman was 171 and just settling into his day's work. And even when he had reached 200 off 323 balls, Vilas was not done. There were two more sixes as he shepherded young Parkinson towards greater Lancastrian strength. A late tea came and a late tea went. Then Parkinson was brilliantly caught in the gully by Craig Overton off Paul van Meekeren to end the innings.
As for the game, it will probably end in a draw. Somerset's openers faced 18 overs in the late evening and negotiated them without mishap. Lancashire's wicketkeeper was Dane Vilas. He watched every ball intently. It is his incurable habit.