Six-star Hildreth impresses again

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James Hildreth

James Hildreth's composed unbeaten 128 ensured Somerset surely cannot lose their encounter with Hampshire at Taunton

James Hildreth became the first player to score six LV= County Championship centuries this season as Somerset built a first-innings lead over Hampshire at Taunton.

The hosts closed on 392 for seven in reply to Hampshire's 284 with Hildreth making 128 not out and Zander de Bruyn 95, while James Tomlinson returned 5-78.

But, with only a day remaining in the rain-affected fixture, Somerset still face a tough task to force a victory that would put them top of the table.

It was a worrying day for Hampshire so close to Saturday’s Friends Provident t20 finals day at the Rose Bowl. Dominic Cork suffered a back injury, while Sean Ervine was also off the field due to a similar problem.

Already short on frontline bowlers, the visitors were forced to call upon Neil McKenzie and Michael Carberry to supplement their attack as Hildreth and de Bruyn added 155 for the fifth wicket in 38 overs.

Somerset began watchfully after resuming on 16 for one as nightwatchman Alfonso Thomas made five in 15 overs before being caught at third slip by Jimmy Adams, driving at Tomlinson.

His departure made it 49 for two and it was soon 60 for three when Arul Suppiah fell in similar fashion, McKenzie this time taking the catch at second slip off the same bowler.

Hampshire might have taken a grip had Craig Kieswetter not been dropped on nought by James Vince at first slip off Ervine.

Instead, he helped De Bruyn take the total to 111 for three at lunch.

Cork pulled up as he ran in to deliver the second ball after the interval, meaning the over had to be finished by Danny Briggs.

Still Hampshire and Tomlinson claimed a fourth wicket when Kieswetter, on 43, drove in the air to short cover.

Somerset then began to make hay against the weakened attack as de Bruyn reached a typically solid half-century off 86 balls, with nine fours, before reaching tea unbeaten on 79.

The South African looked on course for a hundred when a rare rush of blood saw him bowled by Briggs five short trying a reverse sweep.

Hildreth made no such mistake, though, looking supremely confident throughout his innings.

He reached his century with a trademark square-cut four off Dan Christian, having faced 143 balls, in which he hit 14 fours and a towering six over long-on off Briggs.

Jos Buttler and Peter Trego fell in the final session, Tomlinson collecting his fifth wicket on a ground where he took a career-best 8-46 in 2008.

Somerset, with a lead of 108, will need to bat on in the morning to claim a fifth batting point.

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