Somerset v Middlesex: Hosts take a step away from the drop with a 253-run lead
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Cooper Associates County Ground (day two):|
|Somerset 236 & 159-3: Hildreth 82*, Abell 34*|
|Middlesex 142: Stirling 41, Malan 38; Leach 4-54, Overton 3-7|
|Somerset lead Middlesex by 253 runs|
|Somerset 4 pts, Middlesex 3 pts|
Somerset took a big step towards avoiding relegation from Division One as they dominated day two at Taunton, taking a 253-run lead over Middlesex.
The hosts, who need to win to have a chance of avoiding the drop, dismissed Middlesex for 142, with Jack Leach (4-54) and Craig Overton (3-7) starring.
James Hildreth (82 not out) put on 100 with Tom Abell (34 not out) as Somerset recovered to reach 159-3.
Should Middlesex lose they will go down if Hampshire beat Warwickshire.
Middlesex began the day on 18-3 knowing that if they could reach 250 within the first 110 overs they would take the two batting bonus points they needed to reach 148 points - one point more than Somerset, on 127, could reach with a 20-point win.
But any thought of reaching that target evaporated quickly as off-spinner Dom Bess had Adam Voges caught and then ran out John Simpson to leave the visitors reeling on 22-5.
Dawid Malan (38) and Paul Stirling (41) stalled Somerset's advances, but both fell to the left-arm spin of Leach, before tail-end contributions from James Harris (19) and Tim Murtagh (14) got them to 142 - a first innings deficit of 94.
Somerset initially faltered in their second innings, with Ed Byrom and George Bartlett falling for single figures, but Hildreth's brilliant innings and Abell's resolve saw them reach a commanding lead.
Middlesex's hopes may now lie at Edgbaston, where they need already-relegated Warwickshire to beat sixth-placed Hampshire to relegate them instead.
Somerset batsman James Hildreth:
"I have played better and got a hundred on a juicy wicket at Scarborough. But, in the context of the season and for the team, this is easily the best.
"There is still enough spin out there. If you put the ball in the right areas there is enough going on, but, if you go into a game with the mindset that it's going to spin or be a bad wicket to bat on then sometimes it's not a great way to approach things.
"I believe you have always got to be positive and look for ways of scoring runs rather than worrying about surfaces. Malan and Stirling were proactive and got runs that they deserved.
"If you get yourself in and play in the right way then the wicket is a good test for the batsmen to play on. Its a great challenge but if you apply yourself then you can get runs on it."
Middlesex seamer James Harris:
"It was a tough day for us. Dropping a few chances, as we did on Monday, hurt us and Somerset getting 230 hurt us. Then we had that horrible time to bat last night and it was difficult.
"The ball was spinning and Somerset bowled very nicely and made it hard work for us.
"We took a positive approach and tried to get our runs when we could against some very good balls, many of which you couldn't really hit.
"Maybe the pitch has slowed down a little bit, but it was biting quite sharply and this afternoon James Hildreth and Tom Abell have shown that you can take your time a bit more."