Somerset keep the pressure on

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Charl Willoughby

Charl Willoughby followed up his four first-innings wickets with another three scalps as Somerset secured a vital victory

Somerset boosted their hopes of a first County Championship title with a nine-wicket victory over Lancashire at Taunton.

The 23 points gained by the home side took them to within two of leaders Nottinghamshire, who were beaten by Yorkshire at Trent Bridge, and they will go to Durham for their final game next week in confident mood.

Charl Willoughby took 3-37 and Alfonso Thomas 3-53 as Lancashire were bowled out for 170 in their second innings, Steven Croft top-scoring with 46.

That left Somerset needing just 48 to win and they knocked off the required runs in 8.4 overs, with skipper Marcus Trescothick the only man to fall. Nick Compton finished unbeaten on 30.

The day began with Somerset 350 for eight in their first innings, leading by 91 runs.

Ben Phillips fell quickly, but Murali Kartik, unbeaten on 38 overnight, moved to his second half-century of the season off 70 balls with eight fours and a six.

Some lusty blows from last man Willoughby helped Somerset to extend their lead to 123 before the South African was run out by Simon Kerrigan.

Lancashire’s hopes of getting back into the game suffered a double blow with their second innings score on 22.

Paul Horton was unhappy at being judged lbw to Phillips for two and Tom Smith was caught by Peter Trego at third slip driving at a Willoughby away-swinger.

It was 32 for three when Mark Chilton was pinned leg before by a ball from Thomas that nipped back off the seam.

Thomas then claimed the key wicket of Shivnarine Chanderpaul with a delivery that kept low and brought another lbw decision.

Lancashire reached lunch on 62 for four and moved their score on to 109 before Croft’s battling 101-ball innings was brought to an end.

The 25-year-old was given out caught in the gully off bat and pad and signalled his annoyance at the decision by kicking the ground and angrily swishing his bat several times on the way back to the pavilion.

In the same Trego over Gareth Cross was also out to a bat and pad catch, with the ball carrying through to wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter on this occasion.

Saj Mahmood also fell for a duck, lbw to Phillips with the total on 116, but Luke Procter and Kyle Hogg shared a stand of 41 to ensure that Somerset would have to bat again.

Procter was caught behind cutting at Willoughby, having faced 108 balls for his 32, and Gary Keedy and Kerrigan both departed without scoring as Somerset, encouraged by the result at Trent Bridge, moved in for the kill.

Lancashire took five points from the game and must now watch the outcome of a three-horse race for the title in the final round of matches as Notts, Somerset and Yorkshire tussle for top spot.

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