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Somerset hanging on grimly to title dream

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LONDON (Reuters) – Somerset retained their slim chances of winning the English County Championship for the first time as a last-wicket stand of 59 between Roelof van der Merwe and Jack Leach frustrated Essex at Taunton on Tuesday.

With Essex top and Somerset having to win the final match of the domestic season to overhaul them, it looked grim when they stumbled to 144-9 on day two of four.

But van der Merwe (60) and Leach (11 not out) gave them a total that kept them in the hunt, especially on a pitch offering help to seam and spin. Essex closed the day on 25-0 after rain curtailed play at tea.

Essex only need to avoid losing 20 wickets in the remaining two days to take the title.

Somerset began the day on 75-4 but wickets tumbled either side of lunch with spinner Simon Harmer (5-105) and seamer Sam Cook (4-26) tormenting the home batsmen.

Van der Merwe, eventually out attempting to reverse sweep spinner Aaron Nijjar, said a 200-plus score gave them a chance.

“We knew that anything around 200 would be a good score and it was my day,” he said. “We just have to be patient in the way we go about things, not worry too much about the scoreboard and land the ball in good areas.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)

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