Century from Bowler denies Essex victory

Essex 400-9dec & 413;

Somerset 339 & 271-6.

Match drawn
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Somerset were indebted to veteran Peter Bowler's third County Championship hundred of the season for ensuring a draw with Essex in Taunton.

The home side, set 475 for victory, finished on 271 for 6 after an unbeaten 138 from Bowler.

Rain cut 15 overs from the day's play, but it was Bowler who did more than anything to deny Essex a first four-day success of the season. Bowler, who will be 41 in August, is the oldest player on the county circuit and he also took an unbeaten 187 off Essex's bowlers at Chelmsford a month ago.

He received good support from James Hildreth (41) and Ian Blackwell (30), while Rob Turner made an unbeaten 20 from 67 deliveries. Andrew Clarke was the best of the Essex attack with 2 for 38 from 17 overs.

Essex's hopes of forcing victory on a perfect batting pitch had been boosted by the capture of two Somerset wickets in the opening hour's play.

After Somerset resumed on 23 for 0, Bowler and Neil Edwards had advanced the total to 44 before Edwards was caught behind by James Foster as he attempted to cut a delivery from Scott Brant. It became 55 for 2 in the 17th over when Jamie Cox was run out by Brant's throw from deep backward square as he went for a second run off Graham Napier.

Bowler and the youngster Hildreth put on 76 for the third wicket in untroubled fashion until the latter pushed forward to a delivery from spinner James Middlebrook and was bowled between bat and pad for 41.

After a 45-minute break for rain, Somerset lost their captain Mike Burns for six when he shouldered arms and was bowled by Napier.

Blackwell cracked 30 from 29 balls, with six fours, before he was bowled by Clarke with the second delivery of his new spell from the Old Pavilion End.

The resumption after tea was delayed by 15 minutes because of more drizzle, but Essex had another wicket to celebrate shortly after the resumption when Keith Parsons drove at a wide delivery from Clarke and was caught at the wicket by Foster. At 209 for 6 and with almost two hours batting to get through, Somerset still had plenty to do to rescue a draw.

But Bowler found a good foil in Turner and the Essex captain Paul Grayson called off his side's victory quest with six overs remaining.

Bowler, who had brought up his hundred with a leg-glanced boundary off Clarke, struck 19 fours in his 236-ball innings.

Marcus Trescothick will line up for Somerset for the first time this season when they face Worcestershire in the third round of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy today. The England opener has yet to appear for his county due to international commitments and his inclusion will be a massive boost for the west country side.

Trescothick, who captained England in their seven-wicket win in the first Test against New Zealand, could be a straight replacement for opener John Francis, who is ruled out with a finger injury.