CRAIG Overton returns to Somerset’s squad as the bid for a first ever County Championship title continues against Hampshire at Southampton, starting tomorrow (Monday).

And that presents head coach Jason Kerr with a tricky selection problem as replacement Jack Davey returned career-best match figures of eight for 51 in last week’s 298-run thumping of Yorkshire at the Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton.

With Essex only able to battle out a draw against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, the emphatic victory saw Somerset take over at the top of the First Division and open up an eight-point lead going into the final two rounds of matches.

They could clinch the title at the Ageas Bowl if Essex are unable to beat Surrey at Chelmsford, but it is more likely that the title will be decided when the top two clubs meet at Taunton next week.

Meanwhile, Kerr has plenty to ponder over his seam-bowling attack, with Davey in top form, Lewis Gregory fit again after a foot injury and Jamie Overton having performed well against Yorkshire, despite an ankle problem that will see him undergo surgery at the end of the season.

“We have an international bowler coming back into the squad in Craig Overton after his involvement in the Ashes Series and that creates exactly the sort of problem we want," Kerr said.

“We have been looking to build an environment in which every player is desperate to be in the first team because fierce competition for places is essential over a long campaign.

“Jack Davey took his chance against Yorkshire incredibly well and has been unlucky not to play more red-ball cricket, while Jamie Overton also produced some high-quality spells.

“We will look at the pitch at the Ageas Bowl and make a judgment on which of our bowlers it will suit best. Someone is going to be disappointed, but that is going to happen when you have a strong squad.”

Kerr has maintained all season that he wants the players to focus on only the next game. But the mouthwatering prospect of home advantage against Essex in a potential title shoot-out is hard to ignore.

“People are talking about it, of course, but we can’t afford to get ahead of ourselves,” he said.

“We are where we are by staying clear-headed through the ups and downs of a long season.

“The processes that have put us top of the table must be maintained and for that to happen we need to ignore as much as possible what is going on elsewhere.

“That is difficult these days with all the ways there are of keeping up with other scores. We will be aware of how Essex are faring, but must not react to it because it’s what we do that matters.”

Jack Leach misses this week's game through England duty, but is expected to be available to face Essex.

Somerset thrashed Hampshire by 313 runs in the corresponding fixture at Taunton this summer but lost by six wickets at the Ageas Bowl last season, a defeat that ended hopes of claiming that elusive first title.

The clubs met in this year's Royal London One-Day Cup final at Lord's, Somerset lifting the trophy after a comfortable six-wicket victory.

Somerset squad: Tom Abell, Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Dom Bess, Josh Davey, Steve Davies, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Roelof van der Merwe and Murali Vijay

Copy supplied by Richard Latham, ECB Reporters' Network