Bess bosses Notts as Somerset dare to dream

Somerset 365 (Ball 6-57) and 105 for 2 lead Nottinghamshire 138 (Bess 5-43) by 332 runs

If you hope to make history, it is probably helpful not to be encumbered by the past.

Dom Bess is too young to recall the years when Somerset nearly won things. That pain is for old cricketers. Fresh-faced and engaging, the offspinner only left Blundell's School last year and does not even have a professional contract as yet. All he has is the present and it is glorious. For Bess is 19-years-old and he may be in the first Somerset team to win the County Championship

Bowling with a high action and getting plenty of bounce albeit not much turn from this Taunton pitch, Bess took 5 for 43 as Chris Rogers' team dismissed Nottinghamshire for 138. That gave them a first-innings lead of 227 runs, which they had extended to 332 by the close. It would now be a major surprise if they do not complete their sixth four-day win of the season and thereby earn the 23 points that would throw down a challenge to Middlesex and Yorkshire at Lord's.

For if Somerset win this game, they will, indeed, be the County Champions if Middlesex do not beat Yorkshire or if Yorkshire do not beat Middlesex and score 350 runs in their first innings. The prose of the issue may be strangled by conditionals and connectives but for Somerset votaries the poetry has often come first. This could be a wonderful autumn in the West Country.

On this second evening, though, home supporters can look back with fondness on a day when the ball had only to hit the pad for all Somerset to appeal for justice. As Bess and Jack Leach probed Nottinghamshire's batsmen like tyro barristers, they were joined in their merciless inquisition by most of the spectators in the County Ground. Those mighty entreaties could be heard by drinkers in The Ring of Bells and the good news was passed on to the stylish cafés in Bath Place. Cricket matters so much in this town.

And as ever with Somerset the local pride was mixed with glorious eccentricity. Dom Bess, a Devonian, sounds more like a character out of Lorna Doone than the skilful spinner and useful batsman whose 41 runs secured a fourth bonus point for his side in the first hour of the second day. Leach looks more like a Professor of Palaeography than the high-class left-arm spinner whose 3 for 42 left him with 61 Division One wickets this year.

If Leach's skills were not sufficient to earn him a place on England's tour to Bangladesh - perhaps the selectors thought the trip would clash with the autumn term at Cambridge - they certainly offered too severe a test for Chris Read's batsmen.

Nottinghamshire's trials had begun in mid-morning when Steven Mullaney drove Lewis Gregory straight to Tom Abell at backward point. Although Jake Libby and Tom Moores negotiated the remaining overs of the session, Bess's excellent rhythm - he began with five maidens - boded well for Rogers, whose skilful handling of his attack never allowed the batsmen to settle.

Five wickets fell in the afternoon session and the balance of the match shifted, probably for good. Moores was caught at slip by Gregory when driving at Bess and the spinner then had Libby caught off bat and pad by Abell at short leg for 42. None of the other Notts batsmen could match the opener's concentration.

Michael Lumb gave Bess a one-handed return catch off the leading edge and Samit Patel was smartly stumped by Ryan Davies off Leach for 12. By now Nottinghamshire's resistance was crumbling and that process was accelerated when their skipper, Read, was run out for 4, by Max Waller's smart throw from point. It might have been a tight call but this has been a month in which those such calls have gone Somerset's way.

Having gone into tea on a grim 120 for 6, the visitors lost their last four wickets in a little more than three overs after the resumption. In the modern fashion Somerset chose not to enforce the follow-on but it will now be a major surprise if that tactic does anything but postpone their victory.

The significance of such a win may not become clear until perhaps Friday but the excellence of Somerset's cricket and the memory of James Hildreth's hundred on the first day will stay with their supporters far longer.

One also knows that it will be a disappointment - yes, another one - if they do not win the title now. For even as Bess took his wickets, news from Lord's was being passed round Taunton and its significance digested and analysed. "I wouldn't mind but we've got to get through three more days of this stuff," said a Somerset supporter, his addiction both helpless and endearing.

And, in any case, he was only reflecting a widely held loyalty. On Friday evening, maybe sooner, the 2016 table will emerge in full clarity rather like the patchwork of the Quantocks emerging from the morning mist. And if Somerset are still best placed to win the title, you may expect the corpses in St James's churchyard to be rattling their coffins in excitement.

Notts 4th innings Partnerships

1st48SJ MullaneyJD Libby
2nd5JD LibbyTJ Moores
3rd2MJ LumbTJ Moores
4th57MJ LumbSR Patel
5th26SR PatelWT Root
6th11CMW ReadWT Root
7th0WT RootBA Hutton
8th41WT RootM Carter
9th17JT BallWT Root
10th8Imran TahirWT Root