Specsavers County Championship Division 1 – day three (close)

Somerset 171 & 171-7 v Kent 209 

A DEFIANT partnership between George Bartlett and Craig Overton halted Kent’s victory push on a tense third day’s play in the County Championship opener at Taunton.

The pair came together at 111-7 with Somerset leading by just 71 but stayed together until the close, pushing the hosts’ advantage to 133 to give them a "fighting chance", in the words of captain Tom Abell.

Somerset’s seam attack had earlier kept their side in the game by restricting Kent to 209 from their promising overnight position of 84-2.

Josh Davey struck first, removing Sean Dickson (37), before Lewis Gregory claimed the prize scalp of Matt Renshaw, who succumbed to a leading edge to mid-off having made just seven on his return to Taunton.

A peach from Craig Overton then uprooted Heino Kuhn’s middle stump and Gregory struck twice more before the interval, Marcus Trescothick holding a fine catch above his head to see the back of Daniel Bell-Drummond (33) after Alex Blake (7) had earlier dragged on.

After lunch, Jack Brooks claimed his first wicket for Somerset and Tom Abell wrapped up the innings as the visitors earned a first innings lead of just 38 – much lower than it looked as though it would be at the close of play on day two.

Gregory finished with 3-26, Overton 3-46, Davey 2-40 and Brooks 1-70 but the hard work of the seam attack soon looked wasted as Somerset lost four wickets before they had surpassed the 38-run deficit.

Darren Stevens accounted for Marcus Trescothick – a wicket worth a combined 85 years of experience – before finding the edge of James Hildreth’s bat to leave Somerset’s two most experienced batsmen back in the pavilion with the score still in single figures.

Azhar Ali (2) and Eddie Byrom (14) fell shortly afterwards as Somerset succumbed to 32-4, but for a while the situation was repaired as Tom Abell and Steve Davies dug in either side of tea.

As in the first innings, however, Abell played a poor shot when well set and a loose waft outside off stump saw him caught behind for 30.

That was the first of three key wickets for Mitchell Claydon, full of confidence after his first innings five-fer – he went on to clean bowl Davies (39) and Lewis Gregory (7) before being met by the stubborn resistance of Bartlett and Overton.

The pair played sensibly, punishing the loose deliveries – Bartlett particularly fond of the pull shot – and blocking the threatening ones as they negotiated a tricky spell before the close.

Overton ended the day on 27 while Bartlett, who was not even in the original 13-man squad for this match, will resume in the morning on 35 with a real opportunity to kick on and etch his name into the Somerset middle order for the foreseeable future.

All three results remain possible going into the final day and the current partnership will be critical to Somerset's chances - another 50 or 60 runs would set up a tricky run chase.

At the close, Tom Abell said: "We bowled fantastically well. I asked a lot of our bowlers this morning and they delivered.

"We have been way off it with the bat in this game and it is difficult to put your finger on why. There have been too many soft dismissals.

"It felt as though the partnership between myself and Steve Davies was turning the game back in our favour but I made a poor decision. I don't think it was a lack of concentration - it was a poor ball and a scoring opportunity, I just didn't execute it.

"The way Craig and George have played has given us a fighting chance."