James Regan scored a four-and-a-half-hour century to help secure a draw for Somerset’s Second XI on the final day of their championship match with Essex this week.
Having dismissed Somerset for just 183 on the opening day of this fixture, Essex notched up a first innings score of 384, to give themselves an imposing 201-run lead with more than a day to go.
And despite half centuries from Alex Barrow and Josh Davey, Somerset found themselves in trouble again second time round at 178-5, still needing another 23 to make Essex bat again.
But led by a superb, patient 105 not out from wicket-keeper Regan, Somerset rallied to reach 336-7 by the close of day three to ensure the match ended in a draw.
Somerset’s first innings on Tuesday saw a few batsmen get starts, but no-one able to push on and make a big contribution. Barrow top scored with 45, while Jack Leach made 36 and Davey 33.
But with four batsmen falling in single figures, two for a duck, Somerset were all out within 59 overs, somewhat short of a competitive total. England Lions paceman Tyaml Mills took 4-26, all of his wickets top-order players.
In reply, a 185-run partnership between Jaik Mickleburgh and Kishen Velani, proved the backbone of the Essex reply. Mickbleburgh, who had been dismissed cheaply in the 50-over match between these two sides on Monday, made the most of his opportunity this time, reaching 146 (off 258 balls with 14 fours and one six) before being bowled by Steve Kirby. Velani made 88 off 156 balls with 12 fours before falling to Leach.
Callum Taylor made a useful 50, but with Adam Dibble taking three wickets in four overs, Essex’s lower order then folded quickly, but still with a significant first innings advantage.
Most of Somerset’s bowlers got among the wickets; Dibble’s returning figures of 3-59 off his 11 overs and Steve Kirby taking 2-68.
But Somerset will perhaps have been most encouraged by the sight of Lewis Gregory bowling his first competitive overs since he sustained a hamstring injury last month. The club will be keen to have him back in the first team after such an impressive start to his season. Lewis, who had played solely as a batsman in the 50-over game on Monday, got through 22 overs in this fixture, taking 1-72.
The other wicket takers, also with one wicket a-piece, were Leach, Tim Groenewald, Callum Stewart and Robbie Montgomery.
Somerset batted again and lost Tim Rouse and Max Waller cheaply, but with Barrow and Davey steadying the ship, moved onto 122-2 at the end of day two.
On the morning of day three, Barrow fell for 63, his innings lasting 137 balls and including seven fours. Lewis Gregory fell in the same over for a duck and Somerset were 153-4.
Davey was joined by Regan and they stayed together for 10 overs, before Davey was caught for 68. He had faced 141 balls and hit seven fours and a six.
With Somerset now 178-5, Essex knew that if they could finish off the Somerset tail quickly, there was still time for them to force a win.
But Regan had other ideas. Finding an ideal partner in Jack Leach, the two got their heads down and stayed together for 45 overs, taking the score onto 310 – and relative safety – with a lead of 109.
The partnership was broken when Leach was adjudged lbw for 55, having faced 129 balls and hit seven fours. Dibble came and went three balls later for a duck and the nerves might have started to jangle again in the away dressing room.
But Tim Groenewald came out to join Regan and dropped anchor, stonewalling for almost an hour to see out the remainder of the match. He faced 44 balls for his 0 not out.
Somerset will be encouraged that like their first-team counterparts in the match against Nottinghamshire this week, the Seconds showed real strength in character in fighting back after a bad first day.
Somerset took eight points from the game to put them in third place in the Second XI Championship South Division table on 41 points, two points behind Surrey. Both clubs have a game in hand over leaders Middlesex, who have 44 points.
The Seconds are next in action against Kent in the 50-over Second XI Trophy competition at Taunton Vale next Monday 30 June, starting at 12 noon.
They then play Kent again in a three-day championship match, also at Taunton Vale, from Tuesday to Thursday 1-3 July. We’ll include a full report of both games on the InCider.
(In the Second XI Championship, teams can select 12 players, 11 of whom can bat and 11 can field, so for Somerset, Callum Stewart bowled & fielded, but did not bat).
Somerset XI: Barrow, Rouse, Gregory, Davey, Waller, Regan, Leach, Dibble, Groenewald, Kirby, Stewart, Montgomery.
Essex XI: Mickleburgh, Browne, Smith, Velani, Lawrence, Taylor, Davies, Sikander, Mahmood, Craddock, Mills, Porter.
Second XI Championship table: http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2014/engine/series/715725.html?view=pointstable