Somerset v Middlesex: Hosts seven wickets away from avoiding relegation

Jack Leach
Jack Leach has taken 48 wickets this season, more than any other spinner in the County Championship
Specsavers County Championship Division One, Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton (day three):
Somerset 236 & 250-9 dec: Hildreth 109, Abell 45; Patel 5-92
Middlesex 142 & 40-3: Leach 2-16
Middlesex need 305 runs to win; Somerset need seven wickets
Somerset 4 pts, Middlesex 3 pts

Somerset need seven wickets on day four to beat Middlesex and avoid relegation after James Hildreth's century put them in control at Taunton.

Hildreth's 109 from 192 balls, along with 45 from Tom Abell, saw Somerset push on from 159-3 and declare on 250-9, setting the visitors 345 to win.

Jack Leach (2-16) and Dom Bess (1-5) then combined to leave Middlesex 40-3 before rain stopped play at 14:45 BST.

Middlesex need to win, draw, or see Hampshire lose at Edgbaston to stay up.

On a pitch that has spun since day one, and against a pair of spinners in Leach and Bess who have taken 84 wickets between them in 2017, Middlesex face a very difficult task to avoid defeat on the final day of the county season.

The away side will begin day four with Stevie Eskinazi and Adam Voges at the crease after Leach had Sam Robson caught at slip and Nick Compton lbw before Bess had England's Dawid Malan caught behind without scoring.

Earlier, Hildreth hooked anything short of a length and punished width to move to his 41st first-class hundred, putting on a stand of 126 with captain Abell, while Roelof van der Merwe added 24.

Left-arm spinner Ravi Patel was again the pick of the Middlesex bowlers, with figures of 5-92 - just his third first-class five-wicket haul - to finish with 12 wickets in the match, but he couldn't prevent the hosts setting a monumental target.

Rain came before tea to stall Somerset's momentum, but with a dry fourth day forecast, they will be firm favourites to beat the drop and leave the second relegation spot down to Middlesex and Hampshire.

Somerset fast bowler Craig Overton:

"To win this game would make it the perfect week for me. There is still enough in the pitch for our bowlers to exploit so hopefully we can get the result we need.

"Obviously, the rain hasn't helped us, but I am confident our spinners will take the last seven wickets and we will stay up.

"We are preparing for a tough day because Middlesex still have decent players to come, but the spirit in the camp is great and we will give it everything."

Middlesex left-arm spinner Ravi Patel:

"When I was selected for the match I knew I had a chance of doing well, but 12 wickets is beyond anything I could have hoped for.

"It has been a dream for me. The game hasn't panned out as we would have liked so far, but that doesn't mean we can't save it. The pitch is easier to bat on than on day one because the turn is slower.

"We faced a similar situation in 2014 against Lancashire when we had to bat the day out to stay up and we did it. I was number 11 in that game and it was the nine and ten batsmen in when the game ended so I will never forget it.

"The difference between the teams so far has been James Hildreth, who is a class batsman. We will fight hard and keep an eye on what is going on at Edgbaston where Hampshire face a tough task."