• Specsavers County Championship 2m

    Eighteen wickets fall in thriller at Taunton

    Neil Wagner's six-wicket haul has given Essex a genuine chance of winning this low-scoring Championship game against Somerset

    Neil Wagner's six-wicket haul on day two has given Essex a genuine chance of winning this low-scoring Specsavers County Championship game against Somerset at the Cooper Associates County Ground in Taunton.

    The 31-year-old South African-born, New Zealand Test bowler returned figures of 6 for 48 in Somerset's second innings to leave last year's Division Two champions needing 255 to register their first victory of the season.

    However, it was certainly not all plain sailing. Resuming on their overnight total of 60 for 2, Essex, who bowled out Somerset for a miserly 209 on day one, collapsed to 121 for 8 at lunch with only Alastair Cook (52) providing any real resistance.

    Craig Overton got the board moving, in Somerset's favour, when he trapped Daniel Lawrence lbw for 0, and though Cook reached 50 off 85 balls, he and Ravi Bopara departed within the space of half a dozen deliveries to leave Essex on 81 for 5.

    Although the wicket did provide a degree of assistance to the bowlers, it was not solely responsible for what was to unfold during the day.

    Ryan ten Doeschate (4) chipped Lewis Gregory to James Hildreth at mid-wicket and Roelof van der Merwe found a way through Adam Wheater's defence at 91 for 7. Then, with lunch approaching, van der Merwe struck once again, to send back Simon Harmer (9) at 119 for 8.

    Having wrapped up the Essex first innings shortly after the interval, thanks to wickets from Jamie Overton and Jack Leach, Somerset - boasting an 80 run first innings lead - were equally careless when they took to the crease for a second time.

    Marcus Trescothick was trapped leg before by Jamie Porter for five, at 11 for 1, and captain Tom Abell edged the same bowler to Wheater with only one to his name.

    Elgar was trapped lbw by Simon Harmer for 27 and Hildreth, dropped on 26 and 30, was eventually caught in the gully by Harmer off the bowling of Bopara. Davies was the fifth man out, at 100 for 5, when he offered a catch to Jamie Porter off Wagner and after tea, Peter Trego, van der Merwe, Gregory and Jamie Overton all departed as an agrressive Wagner turned up the screw. 

    “We knew we were going to have to be aggressive with the ball and we got our reward for some hard work. I have been struggling a bit for rhythm but I've been looking at ways of making an impact and creating pressure," said Wagner
    "It's not easy bowling that line, but the wicket was okay to bowl on and I did my best. Full credit to the lads for taking their catches too."

    The left armer took five wickets for 17 runs in 34 balls before Somerset's final pair of Leach and Craig Overton, joined forces to build what could possibly be a match defining partnership.

    In the end, it was Wagner who took the final wicket, of Overton, but not before the pair had put on a valuable 50 runs to leave Somerset 254 runs ahead. Faced with scoring the game's highest score to win, Essex were 10 for 0 at the close.

    Somerset batting coach Chris Rogers said; “I think a lot of the batsman will feel they have left a lot of runs out there. Maybe we haven't been tested enough in the pre-season. However, I do think this wicket is playing tricks. It is two paced and it has become a bit of a lottery.
    “I think the last pair valued their wicket and that was good for us. They showed exactly what they can do and that will be a big lesson for the other guys.”

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