Wagner haul gives Essex chance at Somerset

PUBLISHED: 18:26 15 April 2017 | UPDATED: 18:26 15 April 2017

Essex slip fielders wait for an edge (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Essex slip fielders wait for an edge (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468

Six-wicket return sets 255-run target

Neil Wagner’s six-wicket haul on day two has given Essex a genuine chance of winning their low-scoring Specsavers’ County Championship game against Somerset at Taunton.

The 31-year-old South African-born, New Zealand Test bowler returned figures of 6-48 in Somerset’s second innings – as 18 wickets fell on the day – to leave last year’s Division Two champions needing 255 to register their first victory of the season.

However, it was certainly not all plain sailing. Resuming on their overnight total of 60-2 after dismissing the hosts for 209 in their first innings, Essex collapsed to 121-8 at lunch, with only Alastair Cook (52) providing any real resistance.

Craig Overton got the scoreboard moving in Somerset’s favour when he trapped last week’s hero Daniel Lawrence lbw for 0, and though Cook reached his half-century off 85 balls, he and Ravi Bopara departed within the space of half a dozen deliveries to leave Essex wobbling on 81-5.

Although the pitch did provide a degree of assistance to the bowlers, it was not solely responsible for what was to unfold during the day.

Ryan ten Doeschate (4) chipped Lewis Gregory to James Hildreth at mid-wicket and Roelof van der Merwe found a way through Adam Wheater’s defence to make it 91-7.

Then, with lunch approaching, van der Merwe struck once again, to send back Simon Harmer (9) and leave Essex 119-8.

Having wrapped up the Essex first innings shortly after lunch, thanks to wickets from Jamie Overton and Jack Leach, Somerset took an 80-run lead into their second innings, but then proved equally careless.

Marcus Trescothick was trapped leg before by Jamie Porter for five with only 11 runs on the board and captain Tom Abell edged the same bowler to Wheater with only one run to his name.

A 44-run partnership between Dean Elgar and Hildreth bolstered Somerset’s lead in mid-afternoon and threatened to take the game way from Essex.

However, Wagner had different ideas and bowled with typical gusto to help prise out the home side’s middle and late order.

Elgar was trapped lbw by Simon Harmer for 27 and Hildreth, dropped on 26 and 30, was eventually caught in the gully by Harmer off the bowling of Bopara.

Davies was fifth man out, making it 100-5, when he offered a catch to Porter off Wagner and after tea, Peter Trego, van der Merwe, Gregory and Jamie Overton all departed as Wagner turned the screw.

The left-armer took five wickets for 17 runs in 34 balls before Somerset’s final pair of Leach and Craig Overton joined forces to build what could possibly be a match-defining partnership.

In the end, it was Wagner who took the final wicket of Overton, but not before the pair had put on a valuable 50 runs to leave Somerset 254 runs ahead.

Faced with scoring the game’s highest total to win, Essex saw Cook and Nick Browne take them to 10-0 at the close.

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