MATCH DRAWN AT LORD'S: SOMERSET 376 & 202-7; MIDDLESEX 423
James Hildreth performed a different but nonetheless vital role for Somerset as they held on for a draw with Middlesex in the Specsavers County Championship at Lord’s.
Normally one of the most attacking batsmen on the circuit, the 31-year-old dug in for nearly four hours for his unbeaten 85 in Somerset’s second innings to take his first-class aggregate to 631 this season.
Having conceded a first innings deficit of 47, his side were effectively 10 for 4 in the 19th over and ran into more trouble when off-spinner Ollie Rayner picked up three wickets in 11 balls after Hildreth and Peter Trego had put on 99 for the fifth wicket.
But Craig Overton showed once again that he is a more than capable No.9 as he helped Hildreth put on an unbeaten 44 for the eighth wicket either side of tea. When bad light stopped play Somerset were 202 for 7, a lead of 155, and the players shook hands on what was both teams’ sixth draw out of six shortly afterwards.
In the end, their efforts at forcing victory of the season were thwarted by a desperately slow pitch although it was only Middlesex who had a realistic chance of winning on the final day.
They began well enough. Tim Murtagh picked up both openers Tom Abell (9) and Marcus Trescothick (5) in his new-ball spell before Rayner, who came on at the pavilion end in the 12th over, began to make his mark.
With his sixth ball he removed Somerset skipper Chris Rogers, who was caught behind pushing forward to a ball that turned just enough to find a feint outside edge.
Rayner then took a spectacular one-handed catch at second slip, diving goalkeeper-style to his right to remove Jim Allenby who was tempted into an expansive drive when James Harris pitched the ball up.
Somerset were in deep trouble, but Hildreth and Peter Trego used all their experience to blunt Middlesex for 25 overs either side of lunch.
Trego made 58 from 80 balls with six fours and a six and couldn’t believe his luck when his slog sweep off Rayner was superbly caught by Harris, running in from the deep backward square-leg boundary.
Middlesex were revived and the momentum shift continued with the next ball which Lewis Gregory pushed at and was held at slip by James Franklin.
When Ryan Davies missed a forcing shot through the leg side in Rayner’s next over to also fall for a duck Somerset were wobbling again on 158 for 7, a lead of just 111.
But Hildreth remained unmoved. His footwork against Rayner, who remained the biggest threat, was exemplary with several of his 11 boundaries coming from piercing drives through the off side. He faced 146 deliveries and batted for 206 minutes.
Overton was less certain against the turning ball but both were able to negotiate the seamers operating in rotation at the other end with relative ease on such a docile surface.
Earlier, slow left-armer Jack Leach bowled Tim Murtagh for 14 to finish with 5 for 77 from 30 overs as Middlesex were bowled out for 423 in their first innings.
DAY 4 TEA AT LORD'S: SOMERSET 376 & 179-7; MIDDLESEX 423
Ollie Rayner kept Middlesex’s hopes of beating Somerset alive with three wickets in 11 balls on the final afternoon at Lord’s.
The off-spinner removed Peter Trego (58) and Lewis Gregory and Ryan Davies, both for ducks, as Somerset sunk to 158 for 7 before James Hildreth and Craig Overton took them to tea on 179 for 7, a lead of 132 with 32 overs remaining.
Rayner had Trego caught by James Harris, diving forward on the backwards square-leg boundary for 58 after Trego had shared a fifth wicket stand of 99 with Hildreth.
Gregory was well held at slip by James Franklin off the next ball and in his next over Rayner bowled Davies around his legs when the batsmen missed an attempted flick through the leg side.
Hildreth, though, remained unmoved at the other end and at the break was unbeaten on 68 from 133 balls with Overton on 13 not out.
DAY 4 LUNCH AT LORD'S: SOMERSET 376 & 93-4; MIDDLESEX 423
Tim Murtagh and Ollie Rayner led the way as Middlesex given themselves a chance of forcing victory over Somerset in Division One at Lord’s.
Somerset reached 93 for 4 at lunch, a lead of 46, after Murtagh claimed openers Tom Abell and Marcus Trescothick in successive overs and Rayner removed Chris Rogers and took a brilliant catch to end Jim Allenby’s innings.
After taking a first-innings lead of 47, Middlesex broke through in the seventh over when Murtagh trapped Abell (9) lbw with a ball which swung late. Trescothick (5) got the thinnest of edges and was caught behind and Rayner struck in his first over with a ball that turned and left Rogers (12), who edged to the wicketkeeper.
Rayner then dived full-length to his right to take an outstanding one-handed catch at second slip as Allenby drove expansively at James Harris in the 19th over. Somerset were effectively 10 for 4 at that stage, but James Hildreth (43) and Peter Trego (12) negotiated a further seven overs unscathed.
Earlier, slow left-armer Jack Leach bowled Murtagh for 14 as Middlesex were dismissed for 423, Leach finishing with 5 for 77 from 30 overs.