Somerset v Middlesex: 2016 champions relegated as hosts secure survival with win

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'It takes great skill to produce this pitch'
Specsavers County Championship Division One, Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton (day four):
Somerset 236 & 250-9 dec: Hildreth 109, Abell 45; Patel 5-92
Middlesex 142 & 113: Leach 5-57, Van der Merwe 4-22
Somerset (20 pts) beat Middlesex (3 pts) by 231 runs
Scorecard

Middlesex have been relegated from County Championship Division One, a year after winning the title, following a 231-run loss to Somerset at Taunton.

Somerset confirmed survival with their victory, while Hampshire's draw against Warwickshire sealed Middlesex's fate.

Resuming on 40-3 needing 345 to win, Middlesex were bowled out for 113.

Spinner Jack Leach, who passed 50 first-class wickets for the season, finished with figures of 5-57 and Roelof van der Merwe took 4-22.

Middlesex are the first defending county champions to be relegated since Lancashire went down in 2012.

They added only three runs to their overnight score before Stevie Eskinazi was caught by Marcus Trescothick on his knees at slip.

The fifth-wicket partnership of 28 between Adam Voges (13) and John Simpson (19) was the highest of the innings, but once the pair of them were dismissed by Leach, defeat came quickly for the visitors.

Somerset celebrate
Somerset celebrate the final Middlesex wicket of Steven Finn which ensured their Division One status

'Ongoing pitch investigation'

The amount of turn in the pitch at Taunton has caused controversy and it has been assessed by ECB cricket liaison officer (CLO) Wayne Noon, as well as umpires Alex Wharf and Michael Burns.

Shortly after the completion of the game, it was announced that the pitch had been graded "below average" and this rating does not normally carry a points deduction.

However, this does not mean that Somerset are in the clear with Noon revealing that investigations will continue.

"I've marked the pitch below average for excessive spin on days one and two," he said. "Days one and two it [the bounce] was fine, the odd one from the spinners on day three might have kept a bit low, but at no stage was there any thought of any unevenness.

"The criteria says it's not how it looks, it's how it plays. In my opinion and other people I've asked for their opinion, we've come to the same conclusion that it's excessive turn.

"There's going to be an investigation tomorrow. Phil Whitticase, another CLO, comes in. He'll conduct an investigation and he will go through my findings and speak to both umpires, both captains and the groundstaff.

"He could downgrade it, he could upgrade it, that's entirely up to him. He looks at the evidence and he makes his own call."

Middlesex captain Adam Voges:

"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."

Somerset skipper Tom Abell:

"It's far and away the best day of my career. I have been through some pretty dark times as captain this season, so to finish on such a high note is a very special feeling.

"We spoke at the start of the day about winning the game for Matt Maynard (director of cricket) and Darren Veness (head of strength and conditioning), who are both leaving.

"From where we were four games ago, it has been a terrific effort by the team and I am very proud of all the players. The future here is bright and there is a lot to look forward to. My overriding feeling is one of elation."

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