Tom Lammonby’s fine hundred set up a potentially intriguing final day between Somerset and Essex at Lord’s tomorrow.
The 20-year-old’s became the third southpaw to reach three figures in the match, the Cidermen ending the day on 227-7 – a lead of 191.
Jamie Porter was the pick of the Essex attack claiming 4-51. Earlier Lewis Gregory had turned his overnight haul into 6-72 to dismiss the Chelmsford-outfit for 337.
After four days jousting in the wind, there’s little to separate domestic cricket’s top two in their pursuit of the Bob Willis Trophy.
Essex though hold an ace up their sleeves; a first innings lead. In the event of a draw they’ll take the title having outscored their opponents.
When these sides met in the decisive final round of last year’s county championship, Lammonby was on the outside looking in.
What a difference twelve months makes. The left-hander made his first-class bow in August and has been one of the tournament’s leading lights.
Today was his third hundred in succession, each progressively more important; against arch-rivals Gloucestershire, at New Road to help his side reach the final; and finally to keep Somerset in the hunt at the Home of Cricket itself.
Only Sir Alistair Cook himself can match his three centuries.
What’s more remarkable is that Lammonby was only bumped up to open the day before the season kicked-off. Head Coach Jason Kerr made the decision on instinct and it’s paid off handsomely.
Somerset – clad in their cable knit sweaters – had taken to the field this morning in need of early wickets. Their aim; prevent their rivals taking a first innings advantage.
But it was Essex who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges.
A couple of early boundaries off the pads aided their cause, while Adam Wheater took back-to-back fours off Craig Overton in the opening twenty minutes.
They passed the magic 301 mark before the day was eight overs old, a Gregory delivery keeping low and Steve Davies unable to get down in time.
Soon after Gregory had his fifth wicket with arguably the ball of the contest; a perfect yorker too good for night-watchman Porter.
Simon Harmer was the next to fall, going without troubling the scorers when the Gregory-Overton combination claimed a third victim.
With eight men back in the hutch, the question was whether Essex would push on in search of quick runs or see out their remaining overs.
They chose to eek out time, with Wheater and Aaron Beard content to rotate the strike as the innings approached the 120 over maximum.
For Somerset Lammonby opened up with Ben Green and the duo quickly settled, the former in particular looking fluent having avoided a pair on his Lord’s bow.
A wristy flick off Porter effectively re-reset the game and a few overs later came a booming drive down the ground.
Essex though have Harmer to call upon; he’s head and shoulders above any other spinner in the domestic game right now.
The early signs were ominous – his first 20 balls were all dots – but then Lammonby danced down the track to hoist one over mid-wicket for four.
Not to be outdone Green followed suit an over later, this time clearing the ropes for a maximum.
Lammonby reached fifty with a paddle sweep off Harmer, and Green brought up the 100 partnership with a sweep of his own that raced away in front of square.
The opening stand – comfortably Somerset’s highest of the season – was broken when Aaron Beard entered the fray and found Green’s outside edge.
It was very much a hands in pockets afternoon but Sir Alistair took the catch at slip.
Lammonby countered by striking Beard for a trio of boundaries in consecutive deliveries, before taking 10 off Harmer’s next over.
Porter returned from the Nursery End to see off Abell who flicked straight to Nick Browne at square leg, and by tea Somerset led by 123.
With the rain lingering they went on the attack, Lammonby reaching three figures from just 134 balls.
But Essex cannot be kept down and having struggled early in the innings found their rhythm.
Porter struck to remove Eddie Byrom for a single and forced George Bartlett to miscue one to Tom Westley at mid- on soon after.
Harmer trapped Lammonby LBW the very next ball momentum and when the Cook (of the Alistair variety) flew to his left to take a superb two handed grab that sent Gregory on his way, 187-3 had become 188-6. Momentum had shifted and the champions were on top.
Overton and Davies steadied the ship, but Essex gave little away. In fading light Harmer ended Davies’ stay at the crease with lead 188. By close that had been extended to 191, bad light forcing the players off early.
For the boys from the Westcountry the equation is simple – they need to bowl Essex out. On the other hand, a draw will be enough for Westley’s side to get their hands on the trophy.