Abell maintains Somerset hopes against Middlesex

Tom Abell in batting action for Somerset

Tom Abell in batting action for Somerset - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Somerset skipper Tom Abell’s unbeaten half-century maintained his side’s hopes of victory after Middlesex set a target of 285 in their LV= County Championship opener at Lord’s.

Abell’s bowlers fought their way back into the game, with Josh Davey, Jack Leach and Craig Overton taking three wickets apiece to dismiss Middlesex for 143 in their second innings, despite Stephen Eskinazi’s knock of 53.

Although Toby Roland-Jones picked up two wickets, the home side were unable to dislodge Abell, who remained 62 not out as Somerset advanced to 112 for three – requiring another 173 – before the weather intervened.

Somerset’s slip catching – which had let them down on the first day – was faultless second time around, with Nick Gubbins failing to add to his overnight 37 as he slashed outside off stump and Lewis Gregory held the chance above his head.

Gregory also snapped up Robbie White off Leach for the second time in the match before Eskinazi brought up his half-century – his first in red-ball cricket for two years – by drilling Davey to the cover boundary.

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In his next over, though, Davey found the Middlesex skipper’s outside edge and Overton pulled off a brilliant one-handed catch, low to his right at second slip.

Tight bowling by Leach and Davey, who returned three for 16, had already prevented Middlesex from accelerating and Eskinazi’s departure initiated an alarming collapse, with the last six wickets tumbling for the addition of just 16.

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Davey trapped John Simpson and Roland-Jones lbw in the space of four deliveries and Leach wrapped up the innings just before lunch, dismissing Martin Andersson and Ethan Bamber in the same fashion to finish with three for 18.

Somerset’s chase began badly, with Tom Lammonby edging his first ball from Bamber into the hands of first slip – and Tom Banton might have followed, also without scoring, off Tim Murtagh.

But Sam Robson could not hang onto the chance and Banton settled down to share a steady partnership of 79 with Abell, finding some rhythm as he struck Roland-Jones for successive boundaries to reach 37.

However, the seamer soon checked Somerset’s progress, pinning both Banton and James Hildreth in front of leg stump and the contest was delicately poised when deteriorating light, followed by rain, prompted the umpires to halt play.

Middlesex head coach Stuart Law said: "We had them by the throat this morning and they bowled well, to their credit – we didn’t bat as well as we possibly could have done.

“It was just a matter of hanging in there a bit longer and putting more miles in their legs. If we’d got through to teatime today, it would have set up the last session for us to go out fresher with a lead of 340 or 350.

“We’re still in the game massively, with seven wickets to get tomorrow and plenty of runs still to score. We’ve got to bowl maidens, build pressure and wickets will come.”

Somerset all-rounder Josh Davey, who took 3-16, added: "I’ve worked really hard on some technical stuff, but the key for me is keeping it as simple as I can. We’ve got such a quality attack, with the other guys around me and we bowl so well as a unit.

“Having that quality around you really helps you to take wickets as well. When it’s overcast at Lord’s, there is something in it for the bowlers.

“It’s not going to be an easy chase by any means but we definitely have the batting to do it. 'Abes' has batted brilliantly and, with a good partnership here, we can get the momentum going in the right direction.”

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