Hughes among several Australian positives
Australians 321 for 5 dec and 36 for 0 need another 224 runs to beat Somerset 320 and 260 (Hildreth 75, Trego 60)
James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes and Nathan Lyon have all shown their desire to be part of Australia's team for the first Test against England with heartening displays at Taunton. Having seen off a twilight commencement to their chase of 260 to defeat a doughty Somerset, Ed Cowan and Usman Khawaja will hope to join them on the final day, but concern may be growing over Peter Siddle's place.
While Nick Compton's efforts to turn the heads of the England selectors were curtailed by a debatable lbw decision, Hughes made sound first innings runs before Pattinson and Starc used the old ball almost as effectively as they had harnessed its newer relative on the first evening. Lyon spun the ball usefully and harvested three wickets, though he was slapped to the fence four times in one over by Peter Trego at the end.
The Australian declaration when only one run on from Somerset's first innings and Trego's late afternoon entertainment kept the game open, sating the wish of the captain Michael Clarke, his deputy Brad Haddin and the new coach Darren Lehmann to gain relevant information about the younger players under their command in pressured fourth innings situations.
James Faulkner was serviceable with bat and ball but Siddle remained short of rhythm and direction, leaving Lehmann and the selector on duty, Rod Marsh, to ponder using him against Worcestershire. Siddle's struggles were puzzling given that he is not coming off an injury and has been in the country for nearly a month with Australia A but he has trailed Pattinson and Starc by a distance in terms of threat.
The day had begun badly for Haddin, who found himself outsmarted by Jamie Overton, the first ball of the day whirring full and straight into the wicketkeeper's pads for a swift lbw verdict. Faulkner then played neatly as 55 runs were collected.
Hughes' innings was most notable for the comfort with which he played in a lower posting. Though an aversion to spin is well known, Hughes handled the left-arm slow bowling of the Irishman George Dockrell soundly enough, while driving and pulling the pacemen with some relish. He might have been momentarily miffed to be called in when a century beckoned, but, with 21 first-class hundreds already, he does not share Shane Watson's problems of conversion.
Siddle and Faulkner shared the new ball over Pattinson and Starc, a sign that Lehmann and company were keen to observe all their charges with a brand new Dukes ball in hand. Neither was to be particularly impressive in the brief spell up to lunch, however, and afterwards it was Pattinson who struck, tempting Marcus Trescothick to flirt at an angled ball. Trescothick chose to walk after a thin edge, something Pattinson was momentarily oblivious to as he prolonged a vehement appeal with his back turned to Somerset's captain.
Compton's wicket was somewhat due for Lyon after a very adjacent appeal had been turned down on day one, but the batsman did not appear happy at the verdict, the ball angled in the general direction of leg stump. The first-innings centurion Chris Jones had less reason to complain, unable to get his bat down in time on a Pattinson yorker speared in at middle and off, and Craig Kieswetter was similarly confounded, his off stump neatly plucked.
Pattinson had started to gain some reverse swing, and Starc was soon to show his ability to exploit the old ball's bend. There was the whiff of Wasim Akram about the two deliveries that opened up Alex Barrow and George Dockrell. The first from over the wicket started outside leg stump and swerved to clip off. For the second Starc had moved to around and straightened the ball on to a line that Dockrell's bat was never more than vaguely in the vicinity of.
At the other end Lyon worked through a fruitful spell, gaining spin and bounce to add another two wickets to his tally. A fluent James Hildreth was perhaps unfortunate, scorching a short ball towards midwicket where Hughes juggled the chance before clutching it in one hand, but Craig Meschede was genuinely beaten by spin and pace off the pitch.
At 183 for 8, the visitors' chase looked like being a meagre one, but Trego and Gemaal Hussain ensured that there was enough room in the chase for one or two hundreds to be made by batsmen who need them. Cowan and Khawaja completed the first part of the job, but it is by building a substantial score on day four that they can follow others in showing their worth to the Test XI.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here