Somerset v Middlesex: Ravi Patel takes 7-81 before hosts fight back in relegation battle
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Cooper Associates County Ground (day one):|
|Somerset 236: Byrom 56, Hildreth 41; Patel 7-81|
|Middlesex 18-3: Malan 9*; Leach 2-3|
|Somerset 2 pts, Middlesex 3 pts|
Middlesex spinner Ravi Patel returned figures of 7-81 before Somerset fought back late on day one at Taunton.
Somerset, who need to win to stand a chance of staying in Division One, started well through Ed Byrom (56) and Marcus Trescothick (37).
But, on a spinning pitch, Patel triggered a collapse as the hosts took just one batting point, making 236.
Jack Leach then took 2-3 as Middlesex reached stumps on 18-3, still needing a further 232 runs to guarantee safety.
The visitors began the day on 143 points, needing nine points to avoid the drop - a target based on Somerset (127) gaining the maximum 24 points for a win. But, after the hosts took just one batting point, that target was reduced to five points.
Having taken all three bonus bowling points, Middlesex need to reach 250 runs in their first innings to gain two batting bonus points and take their overall total to 148 - one point more than the 147 Somerset can potentially earn from a 20-point win.
Somerset went into this relegation decider in the most perilous position following their defeat by Surrey last week and prepared a green pitch in order to take the required 20 wickets to beat fifth-placed Middlesex.
But despite winning the toss and electing to bat, their efforts were undermined by Patel, who bowled well to exploit the conditions and take career-best figures, finding prodigious turn to trap Trescothick lbw and begin the collapse from 206-4 to 236 all out.
James Hildreth (41), Steve Davies (27), George Bartlett (25) and Tom Abell (25) all got starts, but poor shot selection against the spin of Patel and Paul Stirling (2-70) saw the hosts fall short of precious batting points.
However, Leach's late seven-over spell, which had Sam Robson and Stevie Eskinazi caught at slip by Trescothick, gives Somerset hope they can pick up the win they require to save themselves and relegate either Middlesex or Hampshire.
ECB cricket liaison officer Wayne Noon was not prepared to comment on the pitch, but said he would do so on Tuesday after consulting with umpires Alex Wharf and Michael Burns.
Somerset batting coach Chris Rogers:
"For much of the day we batted exceptionally well. It was disappointing at the back end and the most disappointing aspect was that our later order batsmen had an in-form player, Steven Davies, with them at the other end.
"We should have been looking to support him, but panicked in the conditions and gave Middlesex some momentum. Having said that, the score we made is worth a lot more and I probably would have taken it at the beginning of the day on a challenging wicket.
"I would rather be in our position than our opponents'. The ball has been spinning, but not going up and down, so I don't see us facing any problems over the pitch. Why not have challenging conditions for batsmen? It's a good learning experience."
Middlesex left-arm spinner Ravi Patel:
"It is not for me to comment on the pitch, but we knew from the moment we arrived that it would turn and, of course, I enjoyed bowling on it.
"It has been a tough couple of years for me with some frustrating injuries, but I knew I would get a chance in this game and I'm delighted to have helped the team by taking seven wickets.
"Somerset's total is about par. Hopefully one of our batsmen will go big to take us past it. The wicket is only going to turn more as the game progresses."