Somerset 326 (Davies 74, Bess 51) and 7 for 1 lead Nottinghamshire 241 (Libby 77, Nash 50, Bess 5-59) by 92 runs
"What news of Essex?" It sounds like the opening line from a scene in one of Shakespeare's history plays but perhaps that is fitting. This might be a dramatic summer in the West Country. "Not good, my liege," the line might be completed. "The varlet Westley doth our cause confound." It is only July, for heaven's sake, but the anxiety-meter is already high among Somerset supporters. By far the most carefree citizens on the County Ground this lunchtime were the thousand or so children who trooped happily round the perimeter as part of the county's schools day.
Those who had turned up to watch a full day's cricket already had the worry beads out. Many Somerset supporters were fretting their side had taken only one Nottinghamshire wicket in the morning session. That fell when Ben Slater, having helped Jake Libby put on 35 for the first wicket - a stout effort for Nottinghamshire openers this season - attempted an inelegant thrash at a short ball from Jamie Overton but only skied a catch to Tom Abell at cover.
So Nottinghamshire were 91 for 1 when supporters in the Colin Atkinson Pavilion tucked into their enormous carvery lunches. But that score worried visiting fans, too; they knew it was too good to last. And they were dead right mi' duck. For even after they had got to 189 for 2 at tea, Nottinghamshire's batsmen were still vulnerable; and those weaknesses were exploited to the unalloyed delight of home supporters in one of the most rapid confloptions seen at Taunton in recent seasons.
After looking as though they might bat only once in this game, Steven Mullaney's side lost seven wickets for 40 runs in 21.1 overs, all seven falling to the spinners, Dom Bess and Jack Leach, who finished the innings with 5 for 59 and 3 for 79 respectively. By the close Somerset's unexpected 85-run lead had been extended to 92 for the loss of Tim Groenewald, who had opened to protect Azhar Ali. Somerset folk who gathered in the Stragglers' Coffee House to hear Vic Marks talk about the county's glory days could bask in their fresh memory of one of their own. They had just seen the sort of session which helps win titles.
No one, except those who have watched their cricket at Trent Bridge this summer, had seen the visitors' disintegration coming. Near the midpoint of the day Libby and Chris Nash were batting serenely against spinners who were struggling to find the right pace or length to bowl on this pitch. Their partnership neared a hundred. Even the diehards on Gimblett's Hill were subdued and they can normally be relied upon for raucous encouragement or frank suggestions. This seemed a quiet day at home for Somerset; summer at half mast, some thought. The only entertainment Bess had provided came when he performed a handstand on the outfield. "We're going though 'em like a butter through knife," said one supporter.
But having failed to make a breakthrough in a conventional fashion Somerset removed Nash from the game by whacking him on the head with the ball. Predictably, Overton literally did the damage, bowling a delicious bouncer which the batsman neither ducked under nor swayed away from. The blow did not immediately appear serious but the Notts physio quickly led the player from the field. Nash received a consoling pat from Overton and Ben Duckett replaced him. Somerset hoped it would destabilise their opponents at a time when normal methods had never threatened to. Eventually it did.
Yet such fond aspirations seemed optimistic in the extreme when Duckett took 14 runs off four balls from Leach with three varieties of sweep - conventional, slog and reverse - and then whacked Bess into the Somerset Stand next over. As so often, though, Duckett wasted a promising start by attempting to cut a ball from Bess that was far too close to him. He had flirted with the same danger a couple of overs earlier and now he had gone for 38.
That dismissal seemed to refresh Somerset's bowlers. Both Bess and Leach gave the batsmen more problems in the six overs before tea than they had in the twenty previous and there was slight cause for home supporters to hope that the evening's cricket would rescue their day.
And suddenly Nottinghamshire collapsed like a hyper-sensitive drama queen. First to go was Libby, caught at slip by Lewis Gregory off Leach for a fine 77. Then Mullaney pulled a long hop to midwicket and Tom Moores was taken at short leg by Tom Banton off Leach. The same combination accounted for Liam Patterson-White, who having spent his first day as a first team cricketer laid low with tonsillitis spent his second getting a four-ball duck. Welcome to the county circuit, Liam. It really does get better.
Bess took the last three wickets, the first of them being R Ashwin, who was bowled when attempting to reverse sweep a full toss. News filtered down that Samit Patel would play as a concussion replacement for Nash, although it is not yet known if he will be allowed to bowl his left-arm spin. That was really the only encouragement visiting supporters could take from this glorious evening in the West Country. Their cricketers must try to wrench a victory from somewhere and perhaps they will do so in the next 48 hours. But Somerset are in the seven-and-six seats in this game and another victory is beckoning, Their supporters will be worried about that.