County Championship round-up: Essex fail to take advantage after Masters' bowling class

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The aspirations of Somerset and Lancashire in an enthralling County Championship race suffered setbacks yesterday as two of the sides fighting to avoid relegation chose the moment to assert themselves.

Somerset, who began this round of matches in second place, opted to bat first after Marcus Trescothick won the toss as their match against Essex began in Colchester but were bowled out for 215, the seamer David Masters taking 5 for 43 to take his tally for the season to 45 wickets, although Essex have work to do in reply after losing their first six wickets for 126.

Lancashire, clinging to an outside chance of making a late charge, crashed to 157 for 7 after choosing to bat first at Canterbury before fast bowler Saj Mahmood showed his batting prowess with a fifth half-century of the season in a recovery to 266 all out. Glen Chapple removed Rob Key and Sam Northeast as Kent reached 53 for 2 in reply.

Somerset's day began badly when Trescothick edged the third ball of the match, from Masters, to second slip for a duck. Co-opener Arul Suppiah was caught at short leg off Masters for four and Craig Kieswetter's poor run continued as he was bowled by Chris Wright for 10.

Zander de Bruyn, Jos Buttler and Peter Trego all made starts but failed to build on them and only James Hildreth, with 84, produced an innings of substance.

The medium-pacer Darren Stevens was Lancashire's unlikely tormentor, dismissing the openers Paul Horton and Tom Smith, plus Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the course of three consecutive wicket maidens.

Steven Croft's 65 off 108 balls was the fulcrum of their recovery, while Mahmood's 60 off 55 balls gave him and his fellow bowlers something to defend.

Gloucestershire boosted their promotion hopes by beating Northamptonshire in three days at Wantage Road in the Second Division but leaders Glamorgan face defeat against Middlesex in Cardiff.