Cricket: Somerset keep title hopes alive with win at Warwickshire
PUBLISHED: 07:22 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 07:22 22 August 2019
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Somerset's pursuit for a maiden County Championship title remains on course after they defeated Warwickshire by five wickets on day four at Edgbaston.
Needing 250 to win with 10 wickets in hand, the visitors chased down the target in 72.4 overs to secure an invaluable 21 points as they look to outlast Essex and Yorkshire, who both won on Tuesday.
It would have seemed pretty optimistic to think a victory was possible when Somerset slumped to 166-5, but an excellent century from Steve Davies and a strong bowling performance, led by Tom Abell, on day three gave the Taunton side the advantage ahead of a defining final day.
The Bears bowled well, beating the bat several times, but key partnerships through the Somerset middle order between Tom Banton, who came through the Warwickshire Pathway, Pakistan international Babar Azam, George Bartlett and Dom Bess, frustrated the hosts.
Wicket-keeper Davies was the first wicket to fall, edging a wide Oliver Hannon-Dalby inswinger to Tim Ambrose for 16, with James Hildreth following 14 balls later.
The 34-year-old got stuck in his crease, trapped lbw by Hannon-Dalby who had to wait a little while for umpire Ian Gould to raise the finger.
There would be no hesitation following Henry Brookes' appeal, however. The birthday boy, who turned 20, bowled a full delivery which Abell played around and struck his pads for 25.
But more quick wickets never came as Babar, who was playing his first County Championship fixture with a Test average of 53.29 in his past 10 games, and Banton put on a stylish partnership of 90 from 178 balls to thrust the initiative back to the visitors.
Babar would eventually depart, trapped lbw by debutant George Garrett for 40 from 103 balls, whilst Banton, who hit Jeetan Patel for a reverse sweep six, returned to the pavilion after an excellent catch from Ambrose off the spinner for 66.
Any hopes of a middle-order collapse were quickly dashed, however, by more professional batting from Bartlett (54 from 76 balls) and Bess (40 from 62).
The pair showed their experience, blending attack with defence in conditions that were ideal for batting.
Resuming after tea on 215-5, needing 43 more, it would take the duo just 8.4 overs to chase down the 258 total they were set late on day three.
Their partnership, which closed at 88 from 102 balls, could prove to be vital in a title race that looks to be heading down the wire.
Somerset sit just two points behind league leaders and 2017 champions Essex and they will be comforted by the fact they face their rivals at Taunton in the final game of the season.
Warwickshire, however, will rue missed opportunities in a match they dominated for two and a half days and included a maiden first-class ton for 19-year-old Rob Yates.
The Bears would have gone a long way to securing their Division One status with a victory but instead hold a 42-point lead over winless Nottinghamshire with three games to go.