Somerset plunge new depths as Smith takes five

Somerset 399 & 220 Nottinghamshire 460

Somerset's season is rapidly plunging into irreversible decline. Nothing, it seems is going right for them, on or off the pitch. Yesterday began with Carl Gazzard, their remaining fit wicketkeeper, heading to hospital for X-rays on an injured finger.

Somerset's season is rapidly plunging into irreversible decline. Nothing, it seems is going right for them, on or off the pitch. Yesterday began with Carl Gazzard, their remaining fit wicketkeeper, heading to hospital for X-rays on an injured finger.

It ended in tears for the Somerset faithful as Greg Smith swung the match Nottinghamshire's way with a devastating spell of bowling that has left the Second Division leaders with a not insurmountable target to reach today.

Gazzard, who had been drafted into the side for his first Championship appearance of the summer because the first-choice wicket-keeper, Robbie Turner, has been rendered hors de combat with a groin strain, is expected to be out for between four to six weeks and was unable to bat in the second innings.

It got worse. Shortly after play began, bottom-of-the-table Somerset's promising young batsman Neil Edwards was also in the wars. Fielding at first slip, Edwards got his right hand to a stinging shot by the Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper, Chris Read, but failed to hang on to the catch.

Read, who was on four at the time, went on to make a major contribution to his team's first innings lead, smacking 66 at exactly a run a ball. Injury was added to the insult when Edwards was found to have suffered ligament damage to his right thumb in attempting the catch. While he should not miss much more than tomorrow's National League match, it certainly did not help Edwards, Somerset's top scorer first time around, when the county emerged for their second innings 61 runs adrift.

That was before tea, during which time Peter Bowler also departed. Thankfully, the former captain Jamie Cox and another bright prospect James Hildreth were able to make more rapid progress up to the interval.

But thereafter their troubles began. The left armer Smith, a South Africa born British passport holder, got the ball to swing in and waded through the Somerset innings like a one-man mower.

Hildreth played on, which was also the the fate of Cox a few overs later. Meanwhile, the captain, Mike Burns, was snapped up at slip, Ian Blackwell departed leg before wicket and when Andy Caddick was caught by Mark Ealham at slip, Smith had claimed five for 24 in 45 telling deliveries.

That sparked a complete collapse, despite a valiant attempt by the Somerset tail. But by the close Nottinghamshire had made inroads into the 160 runs needed for victory, which should be theirs early on today.

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