Somerset 313 (Hildreth 130, Rogers, J Overton 51) and 0 for 0 trail Lancashire 493 for 9 dec by 180 runs
A first century of the season for James Hildreth, that great, overlooked west country run-gatherer, provided Somerset supporters with something to clutch to their breasts on what was an otherwise trying day. Nearly three games in and this is beginning to look like another difficult Championship campaign. Hildreth was last out for 130 and, facing a first-innings deficit of 180, Somerset were duly asked to bat again.
Lancashire have played the percentages well throughout this match and their performance in the field, with plenty of runs on the board, was textbook. Three wickets in five balls after lunch from James Anderson was like a punch to gut of the Somerset innings and although they didn't quite double over and sink to the ground - mainly thanks to an eighth-wicket stand of 139 between Hildreth and Jamie Overton - there was enough impetus to Lancashire's efforts to give them a reasonable chance of pulling off victory on the final day.
The surface for Taunton's first home game of the season has played more like one prepared in August. Safer to bat on than a bank vault for the first two days, Lancashire's attack then produced the tools needed to crack it open: Anderson, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jarvis bowling in bursts as Simon Kerrigan wheeled away from the River End. The grubbing delivery from Jarvis that wrecked Craig Overton's stumps suggested things could get even more difficult for Somerset.
They would have been far worse were it not for Hildreth's 36th first-class hundred. The time has passed when he was mentioned among England possibles - there are still questions about how the Test XI will line up against Sri Lanka later this month, yet Hildreth has not entered the debate - but he drove, cut and pulled smoothly during an innings that only offered one chance, a sharp one to midwicket that Alviro Petersen put down diving to his right.
Keeping him company for much of the afternoon was Jamie Overton, who has a reputation as a lusty hitter but, despite getting off the mark with a pulled six over midwicket off Wagner, was considerably more circumspect in compiling a fourth first-class fifty, from 89 balls. He was out to his next delivery, from Wagner, who had done admirably in attempting to get his bouncer high enough to hit the 6ft 6in Overton in the head and had also seen him edge short of slip on 17.
Impeded by Monday's rain and a slow outfield, which is still bedding in after new drainage was installed, Lancashire took the best part of two days to amass 493 for 9 declared. That effectively took the win out of the equation for Somerset but the way in which they pitched headlong into a mid-afternoon collapse would have been worrying for the new captain, Chris Rogers, and director of cricket, Matthew Maynard, in his second season at the club.
Somerset have found themselves similarly off the pace in opening fixtures at Chester-le-Street and The Oval, though they escaped with draws in both. The same result ought to be achievable here but it would not do much to reduce the chuntering among those meandering away down St James Street come Wednesday's close.
The situation had looked brighter in the morning, even though Marcus Trescothick departed tamely to a return catch from Jarvis' first ball. Rogers produced his first half-century since signing for Somerset and he could walk off to a backdrop of contented applause with his side 101 for 2 at lunch. But things then quickened up rather suddenly after the interval, and not to the home crowd's liking.
Anderson, as wily with the ball as he is unsubtle in discourse with opposing batsmen, prised out Rogers after a 107-ball stay. The delivery may have stopped a little but, facing a 7-2 off-side field and Anderson bowling round the wicket, Rogers could not stop a defensive push looping to one of the catchers positioned in the covers. There was no David Saker to point to on the balcony, as Anderson did after they came up with a plan for Rogers at Trent Bridge in 2013, but it was another example of how exacting a bowler he has become.
He was soon on a hat-trick, Roelof van der Merwe extending his limp run with the bat by playing all around a straight one, and although Peter Trego negotiated the delivery securely enough, he was gone two balls later, Alex Wharf slowly raising the finger to complete a car-crash slide from 102 for 2 to 102 for 5.
Ryan Davies, a former England U-19s wicketkeeper with a previous first-class best of 17, twice drove Anderson sweetly down the ground - which did not pass without comment from the bowler - and played neatly enough for 45 minutes, until he decided to rush at Kerrigan and was stumped well out of his crease. Craig Overton fell shortly after and, at 150 for 7, Somerset's chances of batting out the day seemed remote. That they were asked to have another go, with Tim Groenewald facing one final over from Anderson, only made it more galling.