Somerset 324 (Trescothick 95, Abell 70, Siddle 5-80) and 32 for 1 lead Essex 191 (Ten Doeschate 73, J Overton 3-40) by 165 runs
It took one session for normal service to resume after a season of curious wickets at Taunton. Twenty-six overs of Dom Bess and Jack Leach bowling in tandem helped Somerset press home their advantage in this game, as the pair made use a turning surface, and the prospect of batting last on this pitch will fill Essex's faltering batting line-up with dread.
There was a time when batsmen used to look forward to boosting their averages on this ground's featherbed wickets. But ever since Bess announced himself here with 6 for 28 on Championship debut just short of two years ago, Taunton has been renowned as a spin bowling paradise.
In 2017, 56% of the 225 wickets to fall here were to spin, with Bess and Leach leading the way, and as this season approached, with Leach returning from the winter as an England international and Bess soon to follow, it was safe to assume that spin would play a key part.
But going into this game, Bess and Leach had just 14 Championship wickets for the season between them.
Both had missed several games, be it through injury, international call-ups, or non-selection; across the whole season, they had played together twice, and bowled in tandem for the sum of four overs. When Bess was left out of the side against Worcestershire, concerns were raised that another Jos Buttler/Craig Kieswetter scenario was emerging.
So when, in a spell of 26 overs spanning the tea interval, they bowled unchanged as a duo, there was a feeling that normal service had resumed at Taunton. First Leach and then Bess got the ball to turn, grip, fizz, and bounce on a surface offering them plenty, accounting for Dan Lawrence, Adam Wheater and Simon Harmer.
The wickets alone told only part of the story: after the relative placidity of yesterday, this was a gripping spectacle. The first over of Leach's spell after lunch saw him rip one ominously past Lawrence's outside edge, and two overs later, he trapped him plumb in front.
Wheater looked uncomfortable in the eye of the storm, shaping to sweep Leach before deciding against it, and instead prodding limply to slip. Harmer fared little better, and was caught and bowled off a leading edge trying to hit Bess through midwicket.
Only Ryan ten Doeschate was up to the challenge. In the reverse fixture - Essex's most recent in the Championship, despite ending nearly two months ago - ten Doeschate scored 173 of the easiest runs of his first-class career. Coming in at 212 for 4 on the flattest of tracks with the pink Kookaburra ball bashed to pieces, he took the Somerset attack apart. His fighting 73 here was worth twice as much, as he led Essex past the follow-on target and towards respectability.
Leach and Bess did not dominate the scorecard in the way they have in the past two years, but instead controlled the narrative of the innings. Throughout their innings, Essex struggled to build meaningful partnerships, unsure if attack or defence was the order of the day. The pair were confident and rhythmic in their actions, a positive sign both for Somerset ahead of their run-in and for England ahead of their winter tours.
While spin dictated the course of the afternoon, it was seam that did the early damage. From 25 for 0, they slipped to 29 for 3: Nick Browne, Varun Chopra, and Tom Westley fell to the fourth balls of the 9th, 10th, and 11th overs respectively, as Josh Davey got the new ball to nibble around off the seam.
Then in the first over after lunch, the fired-up Jamie Overton had Ravi Bopara caught behind. It felt like a vital wicket; Bopara is Essex's leading scorer in the Championship this season, but his defensive push was snaffled behind the stumps, and Overton hurtled off towards backward point in celebration.
He returned to take the final two wickets, hitting a fuller and better length than in his first spell, and despite the late loss of Marcus Trescothick, Somerset were on top.
When Peter Siddle had cleaned up Leach in the first half-hour for his 500th first-class wicket, he must have felt a prang of hope that it would be his team's day. By the time his final ball had passed through to Wheater with the deficit 165, it had proved to be anything but.