What a difference a year makes. Last June, Somerset trekked to Guildford top of Division One and were blown away by an innings. This time, they can once again go top with a win, eight wickets away, but Surrey need just 168 on the final day.
That Surrey have any chance of their first Specsavers County Championship win of the season is down to Matt Dunn, who took a career-best five for 43 to restrict Somerset to 153 in the second innings, and a target of 267.
Dunn trapped Tom Banton lbw on the stroke of lunch, then either side of tea produced a brilliant spell to knock over Somerset’s tail. He found Jamie Overton’s edge, caught by a leaping Ben Foakes in front of first slip before Steven Davies was adjudged lbw.
He needed only eight balls after the break to wrap things up, bowling Jack Leach with one that nipped back a fraction and offering Tim Groenewald a beauty, jagging away from middle to take the top of off. Somerset’s final seven wickets fell for 39 runs.
Dunn has been on staff for a decade but this is just his 37th first-class appearance, thanks to injuries over the years. Surrey have several injuries but with 12 wickets this week and last against Warwickshire, the 27-year-old is proving the importance of squad depth, not to mention his own talents.
Dunn said: “Very proud to do that but it’s not something that I could have done without the work the other bowlers did as well. It was my day today but it could be another guy’s another day if we keep bowling as a group, bowling as a partnership.
“For me, I love playing here at Surrey and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do, perform for them, and that’s why times like these, injuries have been an issue for us, I think that’s where we’re a great squad because we’ve got the depth, we’ve got people to step in and I’m just happy to step in and do the role that’s required.”
Surrey lost Mark Stoneman in the fourth over, bowled by Jack Brooks for 12. Stoneman had taken three boundaries off him, the third a beautifully timed cut, but inside edged driving a very full delivery. He averages 11.43 in his last seven innings and his run glut of 2017 feels a lifetime ago.
Scott Borthwick joined Rory Burns and the pair seemed to be batting in a different game. The edge was not being passed as it had earlier in the afternoon and they looked comfortable. Burns scored 185 at Taunton last month and looked set to continue that form, sweeping Leach well. But four overs from the end he wafted needlessly at Brooks and found first slip on 48.
George Bartlett’s opening day century — scored on what Marcus Trescothick described as the toughest pitch of his three hundreds to date — may still prove the difference between the sides, but Somerset’s position on the third afternoon was owed to Bartlett and James Hildreth, who added 64 for the fourth wicket and took the game further from Surrey’s grasp.
Hildreth passed 16,000 first-class runs for Somerset on his way to a 76th first-class half-century, his second of the season. He exuded calm, as ever, on a day when 17 wickets fell, taking the attack to Surrey in the process. Eleven fours came in composing his 64, clipping the ball off his legs regularly.
“It was a tricky wicket,” Hildreth said. “They got the ball to swing really well and it was happening off the pitch as well. When batsmen have got in they’ve been able to get a partnership going. That’s happened consistently and that happened for them again, and then when a new batsman comes in it’s still the same wicket, it’s still the same ball so we’ve just got to bear that in mind tomorrow, that wickets have come in clusters.”
His knock steadied the ship after Somerset fell to 50 for three by lunch, with the ball just 15 overs old. Both sides were three down after 15 overs of their first innings and Surrey would have fancied their chances at that point in the second dig. By the time Hildreth was lbw to Ryan Patel, it looked like the game might have just turned for the West Country, but there’s life in the contest yet.