Lancashire’s amazing win over Hampshire at Liverpool has left the Bears with a very simple equation. Victory over Somerset will bring the title to Edgbaston for the eighth time in the club’s history.
The equation is simple, but forcing victory will be a far from simple business for Will Rhodes’ side on an excellent batting pitch. They closed the third day on 179 for one – 157 ahead, so need to press on briskly with the bat on day four to give themselves time to try to take 10 wickets on a batter-friendly surface.
The title-chasers spent the first two sessions of the third day in the dirt as Somerset, replying to 367, gritted onward from their overnight 239 for five to reach 389.
The visitors’ head coach Jason Kerr stated the previous evening that “whoever wins the title is going to have to earn it” and his players showed a degree of resolve which matched his words.
Steven Davies (52) fell in the second over of the day when he edged Tim Bresnan to Michael Burgess. Bresnan then struck again when he trapped Craig Overton lbw, though Overton’s two-run stay had eaten up 43 minutes.
Somerset’s batting has not over-achieved of late but this time they delivered some important partnerships. After Davies and Lewis Gregory (68) added 60, Gregory and Jack Leach (49) put on 54 and Leach and Josh Davey added 56.
On an unforgiving pitch, there was little the depleted Warwickshire attack – without the injured Olly Stone, Olly Hannon-Dalby and Henry Brookes – could do but persevere. The indefatigable Bresnan was the pick, finishing with three for 35, supported by Danny Briggs (three for 77) and Chris Woakes (three for 100).
Trailing by 22, Warwickshire had a session to regain the initiative and fully seized the opportunity.
Rob Yates (72 not out) and Dom Sibley (50) batted enterprisingly to add 119 in 28 overs and Rhodes added late impetus with 42 in 29 balls.
Together the trio supplied their side with a springboard to a potential victory and Championship title on the final day.
Meanwhile, Daryl Mitchell ended his 17 seasons as a Worcestershire CCC player on a successful note with Joe Leach, who is standing down as club captain, playing a major role in the 10-wicket win over Leicestershire at New Road.
Mitchell was presented with prints marking his achievement at New Road by Club Chairman, Fanos Hira, and Club President, Cynthia Crawford, during the lunch interval on the third day.
By then Worcestershire were already ready well on the way to victory thanks to a deadly opening three wicket burst by Leach which helped reduce Leicestershire to 35-4.
A career best 90 off 220 balls from former Worcestershire batsman, George Rhodes, enabled Leicestershire to avoid an innings defeat.
But Worcestershire were left only a 12-run win target and Mitchell and Libby knocked them off in double quick time.