SOMERSET head coach Jason Kerr has insisted “now is not the time for wholesale changes” after the Division 1 leaders slipped to their first County Championship defeat of the season.

Somerset were thumped by 151 runs inside three days against Essex at Chelmsford to see their lead at the summit cut to 13 points.

“Essex played better cricket than us on a challenging surface,” Kerr said.

“It looked a good wicket when we got there but there was plenty of lateral movement and it made life tough for batsmen.

“It was two quality bowling attacks going head-to-head and I can’t fault the effort of our guys.

“Alastair Cook was the only batsman to make a significant contribution and he is one of the finest batsmen to have played for this country, which says a lot.”

Somerset now welcome third-placed Hampshire to Taunton from Sunday with some uncertainty surrounding the team’s best batting order; their highest opening partnership in seven County Championship matches so far this season is 30.

Captain Tom Abell, who started the season at five, has opened alongside Azhar Ali since the dropping of Marcus Trescothick, while James Hildreth, arguably Somerset’s best batsman, is averaging just over 23 in his new role at number three.

“I think you have to put these things in context,” Kerr said.

“If you look around the country, there are not many batsmen scoring big runs. It is tough out there at the moment.

“Our batsmen have all made contributions at various times which have helped us win five of our first seven games and I don’t think now is the time for wholesale changes.

“There is not as much pressure from the Second XI as we would like at the moment, but there are a few players showing signs.

“Ben Green scored a century last week and Tom Lammonby played superbly in the Trophy semi-final [Lammonby made 85 but Somerset lost to Durham by three wickets].”

Kerr is hoping to have Craig Overton available following the groin injury which kept him out of the defeat at Chelmsford, while Josh Davey has taken two five-wicket hauls in as many matches for the Second XI since his own return to fitness.