County Championship: Somerset beat Warwickshire to stay in title race
|County Championship Division One, Edgbaston (day four):|
|Warwickshire 419: Yates 141 & 146: Yates 53; Abell 4-39|
|Somerset 308: Davies 109 & 258-5: Banton 66, Bartlett 54*, Bess 40, Babar 40|
|Somerset (21 pts) beat Warwickshire (7 pts) by five wickets|
Somerset held their nerve to beat Warwickshire by five wickets and keep themselves in the hunt for a first County Championship title.
After starting the week four points behind Essex, Somerset have closed the gap to just two, with three games left.
Resuming on 8-0, Somerset needed 257 to win on the final day at Edgbaston.
Tom Banton (66) and Babar Azam (40) put on 90 before George Bartlett (54 not out) and Dom Bess (40 not out) saw them to an eighth win of 2019 on 258-5.
After Essex's scrape to victory against Kent the previous day, Somerset proved to be in resolute mood in Birmingham - although, at 49-3 halfway through the first session, they did briefly look in danger of falling short.
Steven Davies was caught behind from a wide in-swinger off Oliver Hannon-Dalby, who then trapped James Hildreth lbw 14 balls later.
Henry Brookes then earned an lbw decision on his 20th birthday, trapping visiting skipper Tom Abell with a full delivery. But Banton came in to share a stand with Babar, who was making his only appearance in the Championship in 2019.
Pakistan white-ball star Babar was eventually trapped lbw by debutant George Garrett for 40, before Patel got his revenge for a reverse sweep for six when he had Banton excellently caught behind.
But Bess, unbeaten for the second time in the match, and Bartlett put on 88 to see their side home.
It was a sixth defeat in 11 games for the Bears, but they still picked up seven points from the game to increase their advantage over bottom club Nottinghamshire to 42.
Who's up next?
Starting with a full programme of T20 fixtures on Friday, there is now another three-week break from Championship cricket before Warwickshire host their rearranged game with Essex on 10 September, when Somerset host Yorkshire at Taunton.
By then Somerset may have an overseas signing to play against the Tykes, in the away game with Hampshire and then in what still looks like being the title decider at Taunton against Essex.
They were unable to call on Azhar Ali in this match and his replacement Babar was for one game only, while they have already been linked with a move for Murali Vijay.
In that respect, they are in the same boat as Essex who, having lost Peter Siddle to the Australia team for the Ashes Test series, used Mohammad Amir in this week's game against Kent.
But he insists that was the last red-ball game of his career and he will leave on 30 August after his four T20 group games for Essex.
Warwickshire head coach Jim Troughton told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire:
"Having come out of T20 cricket I was really pleased with the skill level the players showed, but the third innings has killed us. It's as simple as that.
"Whether that's the amount of energy the guys have used to get us into that position, or whether there's a few tired shots, Somerset bowled as well as we know they can and maybe there were a few minds who thought 'someone else will get the runs'.
"Rob Yates played really well - 141 in the first innings, then he backed it up with another 50 to show the mental strength he's got.
"With a 111 lead on first innings, you just need two partnerships, or even one really, to get yourself to a 300 lead where you start putting the opposition under pressure. As it looks now, 258 wasn't enough, but another 50 runs would have been a challenge."
Somerset captain Tom Abell:
"When we saved the follow-on I felt all three results were possible. Of course, it was going to take a great effort from us to get ourselves ahead of the game and we managed to do that.
"We bowled really well and those lower-order partnerships which helped us avoid the follow-on were a big momentum shift.
"It was always going to be tricky chasing on the final day. Obviously, there's pressures associated but that partnership between Babar Azam and Tom Banton in tough circumstances was brilliant.
"And the way Georgie Bartlett played this afternoon was mature beyond his years and showed a great temperament, alongside Dom Bess, who had a great game. We've got guys who can bat all the way down and that was telling in this game."