Sam Whiteman’s superb, stoic 130* deprives Somerset of a fourth day win at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
With afternoon sunshine beaming across Taunton for a potential dramatic finale, Tom Taylor knocked the stuffing out of the game with a 79-run partnership with his skipper taking the lead to 141 late in the day. After he fell, Sanderson and Whiteman survived a couple of chances, but Somerset could not remove either, leaving them 311-8 with 11 overs remaining in the day and 154 the lead.
Northants missing Emilio Gay (opener), Luke Proctor (captain), Lewis McManus (wicketkeeper) and with an entire top four of left-handers did well to keep Jack Leach to just 3-77 in the rough – nine points gained for Northants.
There were only four scoring strokes in the first 25 minutes as Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton dominated without penetrating the solid defence of Northants’ two Aussies Sam Whiteman and Jordan Buckingham.
The former a Sheffield Shield winner, ex- (now more occasional) wicketkeeper and opening bat, now number three and captain for John Sadler’s side. The latter a less heard of, 23-year-old seamer from Victoria, who only had six first-class appearances for South Australia, plus a six-fer for Australia A in Lincoln last month before getting the late call up to cover for three matches after Lance Morris’ back injury.
Buckingham’s beautiful straight drive off Leach saw Northants past the 100 but soon after saw James Rew drop a straightforward stumping chance. A rare blip when Rew had been superb diving around stopping quick late swing from Overton and co.
Buckingham faced more balls in this knock (66) than he had ever faced in first-class cricket before! From batting 9-11 for South Australia and the Cricket Australia XI-though their tour match v South – 17 saw Buckingham’s career-best equalled but he did not quite bat for 2 hours – bowled by a speared in turning delivery as he tried to advance to England’s chief spinner again. 117-2.
Kasey Aldridge was not turned to until 12.33, probably intending to further damage Hasan Azad’s finger injury that saw him retire hurt yesterday. But it was Leach who got Azad to chip one back to him for four.
At lunch, Northants 147/3, the visitors trailing by 10 runs with seven wickets remaining.
Saif Zaib reverse swept Leach’s third ball after lunch for four to take the scores level. 29 off 33 balls for Saif Zaib, 33 he reached with a full array of shots. Two balls after uppercutting for four, Zaib picked out Leach at fine leg for a good catch – Leach involved in all four dismissals so far.
Leg gully accounted for Rob Keogh (14)-a man of Dunstable CC where Somerset 2s secured an emphatic victory earlier in the week. Aldridge getting the key wicket of arguably their genuine off-spin bowling all-rounder.
57 in the first innings, but only one for James Sales (son of former Northants’ and England’s David Sales) this afternoon as Rew took a blinder in his left mitt off Gregory.
Aldridge donated Whiteman two long hops to ease him to 100. Minimal celebration, no fuss from the determined Aussie – captain leading by example knowing the job not done yet, draw not yet secure.
In fact another for Gregory saw the home win become the favourite as Harry Gouldstone (keeping in place of McManus) fell for a quacker – TkC with a catch at second slip as Overton dived left-handed across him from third.
Suddenly three wickets gone for just nine runs, 219-7 showing what wonderful fielding can do to a scorecard. No-one but Whiteman passing 33, a lone vigil realising how good an innings this was from the first drop southpaw.
Somerset did not quite get two bites with the second new ball either side of the tea break. 254-7 after 79 overs meaning Gregory bowled one with the old ball to warm up before the new pill was taken.
Tom Taylor was grassed by Bancroft at second slip on 30, low to his left the fifth ball of Lewis Gregory’s first over of the new Dukes.
Arguably the most important hour of Somerset’s season so far did not go their way, Taylor and Whiteman staying firm – a 50 partnership coming at the perfect time as they reached 270-7 with just 31 overs (plus two overs for the changeover) remaining.
After the seventeenth time I stated that Tom Taylor can bat, he notched his sixth first-class 50. And then, out of nowhere, just as Tractor Driver was going quiet and the atmosphere at the Cooper Associates County Ground was flattening, Pete Siddle got a vital breakthrough. Taylor caught behind for 53.
Whiteman never looked like getting out until some poky late cuts on the penultimate ball of Leach’s overs attempting to keep the strike, but on both occasions got lucky. And by this stage the lead was past 140 and less than 18 overs were remaining.
TKC dropped him with 13.4 overs remaining at first slip but realistically it would have been too late anyway with Jack White still to come and already a 153-run lead.
Hands shaken just one run later, 311-8 with 11 overs remaining in the day and 154 the lead.