HAMPSHIRE stood firm to secure a draw at the Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, as Somerset were unable to press home their advantage in the final day's play.

The home side carried a 49-run advantage from the first innings, and declared on 409-7 to set Hampshire 459 to win from 75 overs.

And despite them losing two early wickets, Tom Alsop and Sam Northeast saw the visitors through to the finish on Sunday afternoon.

The result leaves Somerset top of Group 2 of the LV= Insurance County Championship, 10 points clear of West Country rivals Gloucestershire.

Somerset's position of strength going into the final day owed much to a remarkable turnaround on Thursday, as home supporters - back in the County Ground for the first time since September 2019 - watched their team crash to 43-5 and then 113-7 after losing the toss, with left-arm seamer Keith Barker claiming six of the wickets.

But an eighth-wicket stand of 171 between Lewis Gregory (107) and Roelof van der Merwe (88) changed the whole complexion of the match, as they stayed together for 35 overs as helped Somerset post 360 all out.

The only runs in the first seven overs had been a boundary from Steve Davies, the wicketkeeper having been promoted to opener alongside Eddie Byrom (with Tom Lammonby rested), and with Byrom, Tom Abell, James Hildreth, George Bartlett and Lewis Goldsworthy all departing, the hosts were in disarray.

Davies (47) held things together, and Tom Banton (45) impressed in a new middle order role, but there was plenty for Gregory and Van der Merwe to do when they came together at 113-7.

They counter-attacked in thrilling fashion, with an array of boundaries all around the wicket, and reached 232-7 at tea.

Van der Merwe was run out by Brad Wheal, but Gregory went on to reach his hundred with a pulled boundary off Kyle Abott, having faced 135 balls, before falling to the same bowler.

Marchant de Lange (17), with two big sixes, and Josh Davey (22*) saw Somerset to a fourth batting point by the end of the day.

Hampshire also found themselves in trouble in their first innings, at 110-5, before wicketkeeper Lewis McManus led a determined fightback with 91*, as they closed on 285-7 on Friday evening.

Northeast contributed 67, while a disciplined Somerset bowling performance brought three wickets for Davey, and two each for Abell and de Lange.

Both of de Lange's wickets came in the 14th over, reducing the visitors to 31-3, and with Abell accounting for both Liam Dawson and Northeast, Hampshire were struggling at 157-6 at tea.

McManus and Barker (33) put together a stand of 87 to avert the danger of a follow-on, before Davey picked up his third wicket of the day in having Barker caught at slip.

Davey would go on to complete his five-fer on Saturday, as the visitors were bowled out for 311.

The Scottish seamer - all the more important for Somerset's hopes while Craig Overton is on England duty - started off by having McManus caught by Abell at slip, with the batsman unable to add to his overnight score.

Felix Organ (26) followed in the next over, lbw to Gregory, and it took a last-wicket stand of 19 between Abbott (10*) and Wheal (9) to earn Hampshire a third batting point, before Davey accounted for Wheal to finish with 5-78 off 25.2 overs.

Somerset suffered an early setback in their second innings, losing Byrom, and were relieved to see Organ spill a straightforward chance that would have sent Davies packing.

Reprieved, Davies stayed together with Abell through to 59-1 at lunch, and both flourished in the afternoon session as the hundred partnership was brought up off just 131 balls.

The captain led by example, coming within two runs of a century in his 155-ball innings, with Davies (82) providing stellar support.

Bartlett (74*) and Goldsworthy (36) pushed the Somerset total up to 323-6 at the close, with off-spinner Organ (3-115) Hampshire's most successful bowler.

Bartlett went on to reach three figures on Sunday morning, while Banton ended unbeaten on 51 as the declaration came after 75 minutes' play.

Hampshire made a positive start to their reply, but then lost Cameron Steel (14) and Ian Holland (9) either side of the lunch interval - both falling at the hands of Gregory (2-18).

Thankfully for the visitors Alsop (23*) and Northeast (19*) batted solidly, adding 49 together before a downpour stopped play after 3pm.

With little time remaining in the match, and Hampshire on 88-2, the captains decided to shake hands on a draw without further play.

The 15 points collected by Somerset took them above Gloucestershire - who suffered an innings defeat against Leicestershire - in the group standings, while Hampshire's 14-point haul keeps them close behind in third place.

Somerset turn their attention to T20 cricket now, with their Vitality Blast campaign starting with a home match against Essex Eagles on Wednesday, June 9 (6.30pm).


Somerset skipper Tom Abell said: "It may not have been a win, but it was a really positive result for us, especially from being 113-7 in our first innings.

"Our priority today was to bat Hampshire totally out of the game and we achieved that.

"We now have a decent lead in the group, having begun with a points penalty, so there is a great feeling among the group of players.

"George Bartlett batted brilliantly and Tom Banton was good in both innings, which is encouraging looking forward to the start of the Vitality Blast."