Middlesex survival in balance as Somerset dominate

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Somerset 236 & 159-3: Hildreth 82*; Harris 1-24, Stirling 1-31
Middlesex 142: Stirling 41, Malan 38; Leach 4-54
Close, day two: Somerset lead Middlesex by 253 runs

Middlesex’s survival in English cricket’s top flight may be out of their hands after they fell well short in the first innings of their decisive clash at Taunton.

The defending county champions, needing to reach 250 to guarantee safety, instead were bowled out for just 142 and failed to pick up any batting bonus points, with Paul Stirling top-scoring on 41.

That means Somerset will leapfrog Middlesex in the final table if they win the match – and the home side ended the second day with a commanding lead of 253.

If they were to lose, Middlesex will have to rely on already-relegated Warwickshire, who have a first-innings lead of 72 after two days, beating Hampshire to stay up.

Resuming on a perilous 18-3, the visitors’ situation rapidly worsened as Dom Bess picked up the wicket of Adam Voges (4) and then ran out John Simpson (0) with a sharp throw from point.

Stirling (41) took the fight to the Somerset bowlers, driving Bess for a six and a four in the same over as he and Dawid Malan (38) put together a partnership of 73.

But both players ultimately got themselves out to spinner Jack Leach (4-54), with Malan lbw playing across the line and Stirling stumped after failing to get his foot behind the crease.

Craig Overton (3-7) wrapped up the innings just after lunch, removing the middle peg of James Harris (19) and having Ravi Patel (0) caught at cover.

The home side lost wickets themselves as they attempted to increase a first-innings lead of 94, with Eddie Byrom (5) scooping Stirling to mid-off and George Bartlett (5) leg before to Ravi Patel.

But James Hildreth and Marcus Trescothick made steady progress, before the latter was pinned lbw for 31 by a low delivery from Harris just before tea.

Hildreth played sensibly as he passed his half-century and he put on 100 with skipper Tom Abell as Middlesex switched from spin to seam and back again to no avail in the final session.