MIDDLESEX managing director of cricket Angus Fraser has blasted this week's pitch at Taunton as 'dreadful' and branded Somerset a 'disgrace'.

His outburst comes after his side's 231 run defeat which consigned the 2016 champions to relegation, with Somerset staying up at their expense.

Speaking to 5 Live Sport yesterday, he said: "It was a dreadful pitch.

"In 35 years of cricket I haven't seen many things like that.

"They played to their strengths and won the game, but I wouldn't have thought we would have gone down that route had we needed to win a game at home."

He went on to tell the London Evening Standard: “It’s disgraceful what they [Somerset] did. I’ve never seen such a doctored pitch.

"The intent was there, so the combination of a below average pitch and intent, that changes things.

"There are guidelines for counties to produce the best possible pitch for matches.”

Fraser was not the only influential Middlesex figure to voice his displeasure, as captain Adam Voges said after their defeat: "We came here knowing we would face a pitch that helped Somerset's spinners because every team in the world prepares wickets to aid their strengths.

"But there needs to be line which teams can't cross. Whether Somerset have crossed that line for this match is for the match referee to decide. I have certainly let him know my thoughts.

"What we didn't expect was rake marks at both ends that were encroaching into danger areas on what was already a worn pitch. That was a surprise.

"I'll admit we have been comfortably outplayed over the four days. The ECB directive is that a pitch cannot be marked poor simply for excessive spin."

Cricket Liaison Officer Wayne Noon revealed after the conclusion of the match that the pitch had been marked 'below average', and it faces another inspection today.

As this is Somerset's first 'below average' pitch in 12 months, they are likely to avoid any penalties at this stage and it will be Middlesex who play in Division Two next season.

Somerset's players were keen to play down the controversy throughout the match, with James Hildreth - who managed to score an excellent 109, an innings which ought to have been enough to dispel such complaints - saying after day two: "If you apply yourself there are runs to be scored on this pitch.

"Going into a game with a mindset that 'this is a poor wicket' is not a great approach - it is a great test for the batsmen."

Jack Leach, who took nine wickets in the match, said: "We’ve played on wickets that have spun more, and I never know what it’s going to do here. As a group we bowled really well and outplayed them."

Middlesex's complaints about the pitch overlook the fact that Somerset's first innings total of 236 was the highest made on day one of the final round of County Championship fixtures.

There has also been no such controversy surrounding the pitches at Chelmsford - where Yorkshire were bowled out for 111 and 74 - and Edgbaston, where neither Warwickshire or Hampshire scored above 200 in the match.

A cursory look at the majority of dismissals for both teams in Taunton this week reveals batsman error to be the primary cause for wickets being lost, but that has not stopped the visitors' complaints.

Somerset will have to be wary next season, in any case - another 'below average' mark will result in a penalty.

For now, however, they will hope the focus returns to their on-field exploits rather than any discussions surrounding the wicket - after Durham's demotion due to financial issues last year, it would be remarkable were another relegation battle to be decided off the field.