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Van der Merwe, Leach 10th wicket partnership gives Somerset hope

by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read

Roelof van der Merwe and Jack Leach combined for a crucial 10th wicket partnership worth 59 at Taunton to offer Somerset hope in forcing a result that would give them their first ever County Championship title.

No stranger to valiant 10th wicket partnerships this summer, Leach joined van der Merwe at the crease with Somerset teetering on 144-9. Facing the impressive Sam Cook who had figures of 17.1-9-15-4, Leach hit his first two balls for four through the third man region. Somerset clearly intent on taking the attack to the Essex bowling unit, who until that point had been dominant.

Van der Merwe, having already hit his first ball for six, had laid down an marker in the previous over, reverse-sweeping Simon Harmer for six with a shot not too dissimilar to Ben Stokes’ now famous shot out of the rough off Nathan Lyon in the Headingley Test earlier in the summer.

The Dutch international’s approach forced Essex’s captain Ryan ten Doeschate to retreat his fielders back to the boundary edge, a move that limited van der Merwe’s boundary options but also narrowed the number of modes of dismissal that Harmer had at his disposal. The pair weren’t totally chanceless. Leach was fortunate to survive a lbw shout against Jamie Porter, while van der Merwe was nearly caught in the deep on a couple of occasions.

In the end, van der Merwe – batting number 10 today but a scorer of a first-class double century – fell to Aron Nijjar as he went for one lofty blow too many. The quickfire stand took Somerset to a final total of 203, a fine effort after Cook and Harmer looked like skittling them out for a sub-140 score less than an hour previously.

With rain forecasted to arrive around 4pm, the Essex openers Sir Alastair Cook and Nick Browne were tasked with surviving a tricky little session before the tea break. Armed with a new ball in gloomy conditions, Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton were dangerous from the offing, beating the bat on numerous occasions. Browne later capitalised on a pair of overpitched Gregory deliveries in the seventh over in fine fashion, alleviating the pressure somewhat. Less than five minutes before the tea break, Leach and Dom Bess were brought into the attack for a solitary over each. Both immediately extracted noticeable turn but the Essex pair negotiated them well as they reached the tea interval (effectively the close of play) unscathed.

Getting through that mini-session may prove pivotal by Thursday. With the weather forecast improving, Somerset do have a chance of forcing a result even though they need to take 20 Essex wickets and barring the most spectacular of Essex collapses, bat again. From Essex’s point of view, two solid sessions with the bat should see them through to a second title in three years.

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