Hampshire 231 & 178-2 trail Somerset 506 by 97 runs

HASHIM Amla and James Vince gave Hampshire a fighting chance of saving their Specsavers County Championship match with Somerset at Taunton.

Things looked bleak for the visitors when the home side extended their first innings total from an overnight 324 for seven to 506 all out, James Hildreth making 184 and Dom Bess 92. Gareth Berg claimed 5-130.

That gave Somerset a lead of 275 and they pressed home the advantage by reducing Hampshire to 39 for two in their second innings before Amla and Vince launched a stubborn third-wicket stand.

By the close they had added 139, Amla unbeaten on 86 and Vince 63 not out. With the pitch showing little sign of turning for Somerset’s two spinners, the hosts faced the prospects of a tough final day to force their third win of the season.

The day began with Hildreth on 125. With only three added to the total, he lost partner Jack Leach, who was bowled by Fidel Edwards shouldering arms for 22.

Hildreth progressed serenely to his 15th 150 in first-class cricket and was outscored by the positive Bess, who reached his half-century off just 61 balls, with 10 fours.

The pair took Somerset to maximum batting points, bringing up the 400 in the 95th over, and had added 145 in entertaining fashion when Hildreth fell in the final over before lunch, miscuing a full toss from Tom Alsop to mid-on.

The 33-year-old batsman had faced 253 balls and hit 22 fours. Bess was unbeaten on 84 as lunch was taken with the score 472 for nine.

Tim Groenewald (25 not out) helped Bess take the total past 500 before his partner fell just eight short of a second first class century, bowled off stump by a good ball from Berg, who had toiled away in a Hampshire attack again deprived of Kyle Abbott because of injury.

Hampshire looked to be heading for defeat when Jimmy Adams, on 11, slashed at a delivery from Lewis Gregory and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Steve Davies.

Joe Weatherley followed for the same score, caught at square leg by George Bartlett, who had just been positioned there, off a short ball from Groenewald. At tea, Hampshire were 70 for two, still 205 behind.

But the ball was not swinging under clear afternoon skies and when Somerset skipper Tom Abell turned to Jack Leach and Dom Bess, they were unable to extract any significant spin.

Vince, who was dropped on eight by Craig Overton at gully off Groenewald, a tough diving chance, settled in to bat with few other alarms, while Amla demonstrated his class at the other end.

Amla was first to his half-century off 101 balls, with 6 fours, and Vince followed, from 160 deliveries, also having struck six boundaries. By stumps they had reduced the deficit to 97, batting with increasing assurance.

Hampshire pace bowler Fidel Edwards got through 30 overs in Somerset’s innings after Kyle Abbott twisted his ankle on Saturday.

He said: “It was tough being without Kyle, but I have put him in that position a few times with injuries, so perhaps it was payback time!

“Somerset batted very well, but James Vince and Hashim Amla have done a brilliant job for us and more of the same tomorrow could see anything happen.

“Hopefully, we can build a lead and if that happens going into the last two hours of the game you just never know.”

“The wicket played terrific there’s more in it for the batters but tomorrow will be a hard battle. We need to build some more partnerships.”

Edwards, who has taken 22 wickets at 27.13 this season, added: “I’m pretty tired but my body’s holding up well, I’ve been doing a lot of work and it’s paid off.

“I really wanted to be fit for the start of this season and will keep putting in the work. I can get better and be more consistent.”

Somerset’s Bess said: “The new ball will be key in the morning. There is still a bit in the pitch for the bowlers and if we can take an early wicket things will look different again.

“We are still right in the game and I’m confident we can press home the advantage tomorrow. I’m delighted to have made my highest score for Somerset and wanted to prove a point about my batting, having gone in at number ten. All the players in our lower order can bat, which is great for the team.”