County Championship review: Jack Leach shows grit

England's Jack Leach in batting action
England's Jack Leach in batting action

Jack Leach summoned up the spirit of Headingley as Somerset showed their appetite for a title fight on another rain-affected day against Essex at Taunton.

Potentially crucial batting point for Somerset

Jack Leach summoned up the spirit of Headingley as Somerset showed their appetite for a title fight on another rain-affected day against Essex at Taunton.

Somerset, needing to win to overtake Specsavers County Championship leaders Essex and claim the pennant for the first time, were 144 for nine when Leach came to the wicket after lunch.

The prize of a potentially precious batting point was 56 runs away and a distant prospect for Somerset.

But, 30 days on from those Headingley heroics when Leach made an unbeaten one and held his nerve for Ben Stokes to mastermind a famous Ashes Test victory, the bespectacled tail-ender again provided crucial last-man support.

This time Leach made an unbeaten 11 from 36 balls as Roelof Van Der Merwe played the role of Stokes with a hard-hitting 60.

Van Der Merwe made a mockery of his lowly number 10 spot as he smashed three fours and four sixes before becoming Aron Nijjar's first victim in red-ball cricket this summer.

The efforts of Van Der Merwe and Leach took Somerset to a first-innings total of 203 on a surface offering assistance to seamers and spinners alike.

Essex had reached 25 without loss before the rain returned to prevent any action after tea.

Heavy overnight rain had delayed play until 12pm and Somerset, resuming on 75 for four, were soon in trouble as a strong breeze blew across the County Ground.

George Bartlett turned Simon Harmer, who would later complete his 10th five-wicket championship haul of the summer, to Ravi Bopara at leg-slip in the off-spinner's first over.

Lewis Gregory adopted a positive approach the day after being called up for England T20 duty in New Zealand this winter.

Gregory struck four boundaries in one Harmer over, but fell for 17 when he offered no shot to Sam Cook and was trapped lbw.

Somerset skipper Tom Abell, as he had done on day one, defended the good ball and punished the bad one and found diligent support in Dominic Bess.

The pair saw Somerset through to lunch, but Abell's 132-ball stay was ended straight after the break when he played back to Harmer and was pinned lbw.

Craig Overton went in identical fashion two balls later and Bess departed for 10 when Cook nipped one back to uproot his middle stump.

That was the signal for Van Der Merwe to go on the attack, sweeping Harmer for six and striking the South African for another maximum with an audacious reverse sweep.

With Leach unflustered at the other end, the Somerset pair delighted a healthy home crowd by claiming a batting point before Van Der Merwe was castled by Nijjar.

Harmer finished with five for 105 from his 27 overs, while the economical Cook returned the remarkable figures of 19-9-26-4.

Essex were fortunate to escape injury with the bat as Gregory and Overton produced fine new-ball spells to beat opening pair Nick Browne and Sir Alastair Cook several times.

The floodlights were switched on as the skies darkened and Somerset turned to their England spinners, Bess and Leach, who bowled an over each before the rain returned and play was abandoned for the day at 4.50pm.

Best of the rest

Luis Reece claimed a 50th Championship wicket of the season on a day when only 52 balls were possible in the Specsavers County Championship Division Two fixture between Middlesex and Derbyshire at Lord's.

Persistent rain squalls throughout the day allowed for little more than half an hour's play, but all-rounder Reece picked up the one victim he needed to reach the landmark.

By contrast, the bad weather left Middlesex skipper Dawid Malan stranded on 66 not out, leaving him one short of reaching 1000 Championship runs for the season.

The whole of the morning session was lost after heavy overnight rain relented at 10am, only to return shortly before the rescheduled start of play at 11.30am.

It was 1.50pm before the players could emerge from the Pavilion and the two not out batsmen Malan and Martin Andersson began confidently.

Malan struck a sweet four square of the wicket, while Andersson, looking to follow up his 83 at Old Trafford against Lancashire last week with another sizeable contribution stroked one from Anuj Dal to the cover boundary.

Sadly, for Andersson it would prove his only scoring shot of the day as Reece reached his wicket milestone soon afterwards, finding the edge of the all-rounder's bat to give wicketkeeper Harvey Hosein a straightforward catch.

John Simpson replaced Andersson at the crease, but could not follow up his century against Lancashire last week. The wicketkeeper had made only four when he played across a straight one from Anuj Dal to be trapped lbw.

Frustratingly for the hosts it proved to be the last delivery of the session as before James Harris could even take guard the rain returned once more to drive the players from the field for an early tea.

Hopes were raised when the skies briefly cleared, but plans to restart at 3:35pm had to be shelved when the heavens opened yet again.


A fluent eighth wicket partnership of 96 in 21 overs between David Wiese and George Garton put Sussex on top in their Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash with Worcestershire at Hove.

The first half of the second day's play had been washed out but Wiese and Garton made up for that after the overnight pair of Ben Brown and Tom Clark had fallen in successive overs.

Wiese struck a typically powerful 47 from 72 deliveries, with eight fours. But Garton was even more impressive, with a career best unbeaten 59 which followed his maiden half-century in the previous match against Derbyshire.

Fast bowler Garton wants to be recognised more as an all-rounder and he is pressing his claims.

He faced just 68 deliveries and hit nine fours in an innings that showed his timing as well as power. He reached his fifty with a sumptuous extra-cover drive for four of Ed Barnard, who was armed with the new ball.

The Worcestershire pace attack bowled well but the surface was slow and then, towards the end of the day, they didn't make the most of the new ball.

The day was further curtailed when the players left the field eight overs early because of bad light.

Any play at all felt something of a bonus.

When the teams took an early lunch at noon it was with the half-expectation that play would be called off shortly afterwards. But then the sun came out and another inspection was announced for 2pm, with the result that play would start at 3pm with 42 overs to be bowled.

Sussex resumed on 150 for five and in the 80 minutes before tea they progressed to 216 for seven.

Brown, seven not out overnight, scored the first runs of the day when he cover drove Charlie Morris's third delivery through the covers for four.

The tall, left-handed Tom Clark, 18 and making his first-class debut, looked impressive and in the mood to make a claim for a top order batting place next season in what has been a disappointing season for the county in that department.

The 18-year-old England Under-19 batsman pulled a short delivery from Adam Finch to square-leg for four and when Wayne Parnell replaced Morris at the sea end he punched another boundary through the covers.

But then, flashing at a wide delivery without moving his feet, he was caught by Riki Wessels at first slip for 13. And in the next over Barnard had Brown lbw for 33.

Just before tea Parnell, in the middle of an over, had to be helped from field clutching his left arm.

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