Somerset forced to settle for draw on day four
Somerset’s hopes of securing an outstanding victory over title hopefuls Hampshire was thwarted by another stubborn batting performance by the visitors as this LV= Insurance County Championship match ended in a draw.
Needing eight wickets for victory, hopes were high amongst the Somerset faithful, and when Hampshire were reduced to 115 for seven an unlikely victory looked like coming to fruition.
However, a dogged display by the visiting batters, and in particular Nick Gubbins, meant that the victory was not to be.
Gubbins batted for over four hours and faced 241 balls in making 50 not out and was essentially the reason why the game ended in stalemate.
Hampshire began the day on 34 for two, needing 55 more runs to avoid an innings defeat, before Gubbins and Liam Dawson (68 not out) produced a match-saving stand of exactly 100 either side of tea.
Gubbins found the perfect partner in Dawson, who hit 14 fours and a six, and they frustrated a home bowling attack in which 19-year-old off-spinner Shoaib Bashir, who claimed three for 67 from 37 overs, excelled
Somerset’s young team, including three teenagers, had to settle for 12 points from a game they dominated, while their opponents took ten.
Needing 136 to avoid an innings defeat, the visitors lost Felix Organ early in the day when he edged Alfie Ogborne to Tom Lammonby at third slip.
No rain had been forecast, but a shower arrived at 11.20pm with the scoreboard reading 45 for three. Nine overs were lost before play resumed at noon.
Fletcha Middleton had looked largely untroubled in moving to 29 off 80 balls, but he departed with the total on 58, bowled by Bashir looking to play off the back foot through the on side. Bashir was looking hugely impressive for a player making only his third Championship appearance and without a run added he gave Somerset’s victory hopes a massive boost.
Visiting skipper James Vince had held himself back to bat at six and lasted only four balls before glancing a catch to Kasey Aldridge, shrewdly positioned at leg slip.
Ben Brown counter-attacked with three fours in moving to 14 by the time a second shower saw lunch taken a few minutes early. At the interval, Bashir had figures of three for 17 from 12.4 overs and Hampshire trailed by 92 runs.
Three more overs were lost before a 1.45pm restart, but Brown greeted the resumption with a cover drive for four as Bashir completed his 13th over and it was soon clear that Gubbins was setting his stall out to play the anchor role.
The sixth-wicket pair built a half-century stand in 97 balls, foiling the combined efforts of spinners Bashir and Dom Bess and forcing Somerset skipper Tom Abell to recall Aldridge to the attack.
It proved an inspired move as Brown got a touch to a full delivery and wicketkeeper James Rew took a two-handed catch down the leg side, diving to his left.
Three balls later, James Fuller fell for a duck as Aldridge found an inside edge through to Rew and suddenly Hampshire were 115 for seven, still 55 away from making their opponents bat again.
Bashir was now bowling with five fielders clustered around the bat, but meeting solid resistance from Gubbins. He had battled away for 157 balls for his 31 runs by the time tea was taken with Hampshire 135 for seven, having reduced the deficit to 35.
Dawson was the aggressor after the break as the pair took their stand past 50. Somerset turned to the occasional spin of first Tom Lammonby and then Andy Umeed for an over each without success ahead of taking the second new ball at 167 for seven.
Bashir was handed it and there was still considerable work to do for Gubbins and Dawson. A Gubbins boundary through the off-side eventually took his side into the slenderest of leads.
Jack Brooks took the new ball at the other end with blue skies over the Cooper Associates County Ground and Dawson survived two confident appeals for close-in catches in the same Bashir over.
Left-hander Gubbins set himself to face most deliveries from the off-spinner, preventing him exploiting the rough outside right-hander Dawson’s off stump. By the time the last hour and final 16 overs were signalled, Hampshire led by 17 runs.
Dawson’s tenth four took him to a vital half-century off 115 balls. Gubbins followed to the same landmark off 237 deliveries. It became evident that it wasn’t going to be Somerset’s day and the players shook hands at 5.35pm.