Yorkshire 202 (Hodd 59, J Overton 3-30) and 127 for 2 (Handscomb 57*) lead Somerset 224 (Sidebottom 5-56) by 105 runs
For many years, Blackbird by The Wurzels has been as close to an official Somerset cricketing song as anything. It was recorded in 1976 and Somerset's glory years of Botham, Richards and co began two years later, although it took an Australian, Justin Langer, to adopt Blackbird as a dressing room victory anthem.
A victory song has not yet been needed by Somerset this season, not in the Championship anyway. They are winless in five matches, 14 points adrift from safety, which is the sort of run where players begin to forget the lyrics and instead mouth in desperation.
They are desperate to get their season on track by taking advantage of a weakened Yorkshire attack. But after stealing a first-innings lead of 22, despite the exemplary efforts of Ryan Sidebottom, who returned 5 for 56 and totted up 750 first-class wickets in the process, Somerset struggled to push home their advantage.
Peter Handscomb, sustained by a diet of legside flicks, struck an unbeaten 57 and gave Yorkshire the slightest edge at the close of a keenly-contested second day: 105 ahead with eight wickets remaining. The ball is offering for the spinners, but nothing extravagant and the bounce remains reliable even though the pitch was used in the previous Championship match against Hampshire. The game is still wide open.
If Somerset don't win this, there is a miniscule chance that Blackbird will never be sung again because it appears there is a rival in town. Ahead of Somerset's Royal London Cup quarter-final against Nottinghamshire on Wednesday, a rival ditty has been penned. 'Go Somerset,' written by committed Somerset fan Charles Clive Ponsonby-Fane, has more of Chas & Dave about it than the Wurzels, which as that is more Cockney than West Country makes a case for its automatic rejection, but the family does not lack for cricketing influence.
Back in the day, Sir Spencer Ponsonby-Fane laid the foundation stone of the pavilion at Lord's and also became Somerset's first president. Guy Lavender, Somerset's chief executive, will soon strengthen those ties by taking up the chief executive's role at the MCC. If asked, however, he would be too wise a bird to voice a preference.
Ponsonby-Fane told the Somerset County Gazette that the tune came to him while driving and was so catchy that he just had to drive straight home to write it down. That is the sort of commitment that sets cricketing families apart from the rest of us. "Sorry dear, I couldn't get the milk: this cricket song suddenly came to me."
Perhaps Tom Abell should have given it a hum in the field, especially the refrain: "We got a wicket, that's good cricket, just the ticket, we want one more." They got one wicket when Adam Lyth played back to the offspin of Dom Bess and was adjudged lbw, departing with a meaningful gesture at his bat and kick of an old wicket end. They got another when Craig Overton bowled Alex Lees through the gate, but Handscomb and Ballance restored Yorkshire's authority by the close.
Somerset had conceded three wickets cheaply on the first evening, so resistance from Lewis Gregory and Steve Davies for much of the morning was a necessary response. Gregory looked in good order following his maiden Championship hundred against Middlesex and Davies, bereft of form all season, benefited from a missed chance by Adam Lyth at second slip - another potential scalp for Sidebottom - to exhibit some crisp strokeplay.
Somerset's belief grew that salvation on a used pitch could lie in a superior spin pairing as Azeem Rafiq erred in length too often - although he did pick up Davies at slip - and Karl Carver's left-arm spin was shunned, so questioning the sense of Yorkshire's omission of Jack Brooks. Justification might come in the fourth innings. When Carver did bowl, he rounded up Somerset's innings by removing last man Bess to a keeper's catch.
Adam Hose's Championship debut is not going well. He strained a thigh on the first day and, on the second, coming in belatedly at No. 7, lasted six balls before planting his front foot and falling lbw, so bringing Matthew Waite a first Championship wicket.
Things could turn for Hose. Countless debutants, and some extremely good ones, have begun life with a duck. But at the moment nobody is rushing home to write a song about him. Not even Charles Clive Ponsonby-Fane. At least, if he is, he has yet to tell the Somerset County Gazette.