County Championship: Somerset slump to 75-4 against Essex before rain arrives
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton (day one):|
|Somerset 75-4: Hildreth 32; S Cook 2-5, Harmer 2-24|
|Essex: Yet to bat|
|Somerset 0 pts, Essex 1 pt|
Somerset struggled to 75-4 before rain curtailed the opening day of their County Championship title decider against leaders Essex at Taunton.
The hosts, who must win to claim a first Championship crown in their 144-year history, elected to bat first.
But seamer Sam Cook removed openers Murali Vijay caught behind and Steve Davies lbw inside four overs.
James Hildreth (32) was lbw to Simon Harmer and Tom Banton fell in the same over before they went off at 12:15 BST.
With rain falling throughout the afternoon, play was eventually called off at 16:45 BST.
Harmer, fresh from leading Essex to their maiden T20 Blast title on Saturday, now has 80 wickets in Division One this season and is likely to be the key on a turning pitch.
However, with more rain forecast on Tuesday, enough time may be taken out of the game for Essex to get at least the draw they need to claim a second County Championship trophy in three years.
Somerset captain Tom Abell, who is not out on 24, knows the pitch is likely to offer its most turn in the fourth innings when Essex are likely to be batting.
But his decision to bat first at a toss which took place in sunshine appeared to be a brave one, with the weather set to deteriorate throughout the day.
India opener Vijay's struggles for the county continued as he nicked Cook's first ball behind and Adam Wheater took a superb, low, one-handed catch. The right-hander has scored just 42 runs in five innings since linking up with Somerset earlier this month.
Davies followed in Cook's next over, when a full ball from around the wicket pinned him plumb in front.
Hildreth looked in good touch in a stand of 47 with Abell, before Harmer produced a big turner which trapped him on the back foot.
Youngster Banton went in the same fashion two balls later without scoring, but by then there was already rain in the air and the players went off 15 minutes before lunch - never to return.
Somerset batsman James Hildreth:
"The pitch is doing plenty for the bowlers already, with some seam movement and spin. I can't see it getting any easier to bat on, although you can never quite be sure at Taunton.
"Knowing there was some bad weather forecast, we had to make sure of producing a result wicket. Anything above 200 will be a good score.
"It was a real challenge facing one of the best spinners in the country in Simon Harmer, with conditions in his favour.
"He varies his length and pace well, giving you very few bad balls. We have to come up with a method of playing him."
Essex seamer Sam Cook:
"Saturday was a great day to be an Essex player, but we came here determined to focus fully on the job ahead and keep the celebrations hopefully for when we get it done.
"There hasn't been enough cricket yet to make an accurate assessment of conditions, but I don't think batting is going to get any easier as the match progresses.
"Four wickets is a decent start for us. We had talked in the dressing room before the game about being really on it from ball one, so it was great for me to pick up those two early wickets.
"We saw enough of Murali Vijay at Essex last season to know he is a class act, but I managed to get him with a good nut."