Essex set Somerset imposing total on day three

Essex set Somerset an imposing fourth innings total for victory on the third day of this LV= Insurance County Championship match at Chelmsford.

All-rounder Matt Critchley notched up 52, to go with his first innings century, as the hosts set Tom Abell’s side 466 runs to win in just under five sessions.

However, Somerset’s batters, headed by Tom Lammonby and Tom Abell’s half-centuries, showed fine spirit and grit to bolster their chances of saving a draw.

Critchley struck with his first ball to pin Lammonby for a two-hour 59 and also dismissed George Bartlett as Essex need six wickets on the final day to win at the Cloud County Ground for the first time this season – Somerset still need 294 runs.

Essex decided not to enforce the follow-on – with the decision hinging on giving the bowlers a longer break, the offset being less time to bowl Somerset out. They had taken their 295 first innings lead to 310, but lost Nick Browne in seven overs on the second evening.

However, the third morning was a meandering session where Essex seemed in no rush to declare, albeit against some well-directed bowling. 113 runs were scored in the session with four wickets falling.

New Zealand fast bowler Matt Henry pinned Division One’s leading run scorer leg before in the sixth over of the day. Paul Walter then showed a few moments of intent in his 25 before a drive with little footwork was well caught at gully by Craig Overton off Josh Davey, before Feroze Khushi fended a ball from Kasey Aldridge to Abell to first slip.

Critchley had shown impetus, as he had during his 121 in the first innings, to push the lead to 450 – the loose plan to bring about a declaration.

The former Derbyshire player carted Aldridge over midwicket for six before clobbering debutant spinner Shoaib Bashir back over his head. His half-century came in 64 balls and was his sixth of the season.

After Simon Harmer had picked out Tom Kohler-Cadmore at long on off Aldridge in a post-lunch frenzy, Critchley departed,becoming Aldridge’s fourth victim, for 52 after lobbing a reverse pull shot softly to short fine leg.

Will Buttleman and Ben Allison both stuck sixes as the lead passed 450, before Tom Westley pulled out with 55 overs left in the day, and 151 in the match. Aldridge’s figures were four for 36.

Lammonby and Sean Dickson – who had carried his bat in the first innings – looked in little danger before the latter hit Jamie Porter to midwicket.

Essex tend to pin their hopes on Harmer in these situations, especially after his first-innings five-for. He was introduced in the seventh over. The South African bowled 14 fruitless overs before Critchley was thrown the ball to make something happen. He did immediately as a drag down stayed low and hit Lammonby – who had struck his third fifty of the season – on the pads.

After two overs from the River End, the leg spinner switched to the Hayes Close End and two balls later influenced an edge from Bartlett which was well caught at first slip.

Abell’s fifty came in 124 balls but Tom Kohler-Cadmore was lbw to Harmer to the last ball of the day having put on 55 with his captain.

At the close of play, Somerset batting Coach, Shane Burger said: “It was really frustrating to lose that wicket in the last over of the day. Tom Abell batted superbly and showed incredible resilience. The two up front were looking good as well.

“We had a really good platform and the boys have gone away and done the hard work and hard yards today and then unfortunately that last wicket goes down. It is out of your control sometimes and we use it to get better and give us the belief we can come out tomorrow and do something special.

“First and foremost you know there are a few options that can happen in a game. It could be a fantastic run chase or an innings where you have to show massive resilience and fight or it is one of those where you roll over and die.

“You have a decision to make as a unit and we know this unit isn’t going to roll over, so that isn’t an option. We certainly fought tonight and we always believe we can go and do something special. With the likes of Kohler-Cadmore and Abell you believe anything is possible.

“We’ve got a platform but we need to keep going for a little bit longer and put on a really big partnership. James Rew has done that this season and shown it in tough conditions with Tom Abell. There is no reason they can’t do that again.

“It is your natural game to play the longest possible knock you can. So what does your game look like to face 100 or 200 balls? If that is more attacking then that is how you have to set up for a longer innings, in Abell’s case it is to go about it in his own time and do it in his own fashion. All the batters are different, so the key is to go really big in the partnership.”