County Championship - day three (close)

Somerset 236 & 250-9d v Middlesex 142 & 40-3

SOMERSET are seven wickets away from securing their Division One survival after three early breakthroughs put the hosts in the driving seat against Middlesex in Taunton.

Having declared on 250-9 and set the visitors 345 to win, Jack Leach and Dom Bess shared three wickets between them as the 2016 champions slumped to 40-3 before rain brought a premature end to the day's play.

Somerset resumed on 159-4 and their mindset was clear from the off, as James Hildreth moved into the nineties with two scorching boundaries through the off-side.

Tom Abell departed for 45, reverse sweeping Ravi Patel to Adam Voges at slip, but Hildreth soon brought up his 41st First Class century – and second of the season - with a scampered two to deep backward point.

The hosts continued to try and score at pace, but their desire for quick runs led to some ugly dismissals.

Steve Davies (8) handed Patel his 10th wicket as he was lbw heaving across the line, and Hildreth then had his off stump removed by James Harris to fall for a superb 109.

Craig Overton, who was named in England’s Ashes squad prior to play, mustered only a single before he was stumped by Patel, and he was swiftly followed back to the pavilion by Dom Bess (8) and Roelof van der Merwe, who was yet another victim of the reverse sweep as he picked out Steven Finn from the bowling of Patel (5-82).

Jack Leach (10*) lofted Patel into the Colin Atkinson Pavilion as he and Tim Groenewald (1*) took Somerset to 250-9 when Abell declared, leaving Middlesex a target of 345 to win.

Middlesex’s innings began in chaotic fashion when, from the first ball of the innings, Nick Compton called Sam Robson through for a suicidal single – Robson would have been run out without facing had Craig Overton managed to hit the stumps with his underarm throw in the follow-through.

The home side then passed up a glorious chance to make the first breakthrough when Robson chipped a floated Leach delivery straight to Tom Abell, but the captain snatched at the simple chance in the covers and put it down.

The captain was able to breath a huge sigh of relief shortly afterwards, however, as Leach found the edge of Robson’s bat and Craig Overton held a regulation chance at first slip to leave Middlesex 20-1.

Compton (10) was next to go, playing back to a flighted Leach delivery which trapped him in front, and Bess then got in on the act as Dawid Malan was caught behind for a duck.

Stevie Eskinazi (16*) and Adam Voges (1*) are the men tasked with trying to save the game for Middlesex tomorrow - the visitors do not need to win, so the onus is on Somerset to claim the victory.

Both teams could yet survive if Hampshire lose at Warwickshire - the South Coast county go into the final day at Edgbaston on 20-1 chasing 259 to win.

Speaking after the day's play, Craig Overton said: "The rain this afternoon hasn't helped but I still believe there is enough going on in the pitch for our spinners to find seven wickets tomorrow.

"It's about being patient - you can't blow sides out on that wicket, so we have to stick at it and hopefully we'll get the rewards.

"We know it will be a tough day tomorrow, but we are feeling positive and we'll be fighting hard, that's for certain."