Somerset close in on maiden crown

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James Hildreth & Ruel Brathwaite

James Hildreth departs for 105, having helped Somerset secure a fifth batting bonus point in their quest for a maiden County Championship crown

Somerset remain in pole position in the race for the LV= County Championship Division One title after day three against Durham at the Emirates Durham ICG.

With the maximum of eight bonus points in the bag, Somerset are six clear of Nottinghamshire and eight in front of Yorkshire.

Somerset are unbeaten since losing their first two games to that pair and, barring the unthinkable, they are unlikely to lose to Durham, despite seeing their first-innings lead of 140 wiped out.

Durham closed the third day on 171 for two, with Michael Di Venuto reaching 1,000 championship runs on 37 and remaining unbeaten on 84.

Somerset became the first side to bag the maximum of five batting points at Durham this season.

They raced to 400 with seven wickets down and 16.3 of the 110 overs to spare, James Hildreth taking them there shortly after pulling Liam Plunkett for four to complete his seventh championship century of the season off 175 balls.

As Somerset tried to press the accelerator even further, the remaining three wickets fell to 25-year-old West Indian trialist Ruel Brathwaite to leave the visitors 426 all out.

He knocked out Hildreth’s leg stump for 105, then Alfonso Thomas backed away to leg and chopped the ball into his stumps on 26 and Murali Kartik guided a catch straight to third man.

Hildreth was able to play a very composed innings as Somerset added 122 in 31 overs this morning with Peter Trego and Jos Buttler going for their shots.

Trego, 33 overnight, drove Plunkett on the up through extra cover for his ninth four to reach fifty off 46 balls and went on to make 69, which included a six over midwicket off former team-mate Ian Blackwell.

Plunkett skidded a ball into Trego at shin height to hit leg stump in his first over after switching ends to benefit from the strong wind.

The stand was worth 104 and Buttler put on 64 with Hildreth before Ben Harmison nipped two successive balls back to gain lbw verdicts. Buttler, dropped by Brathwaite at mid-on off Blackwell on 25, fell for 39 and Ben Phillips departed to the last ball before lunch.

Hildreth was on 72, but received more good support from Thomas and his 13th four took him to his flawless hundred.

Durham lost opener Mark Stoneman lbw to Phillips for 16 with the score on 33 in response but, with the pitch remaining sound, Gordon Muchall contributed 33 to a stand of 113 with Di Venuto before he was bowled by Trego.

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