From a dominant 353 for three, Somerset slipped to 408 all out with seamer Kyle Abbott claiming six for 84 on day one of Hampshire's County Championship fixture against Somerset at Taunton.
James Hildreth led the way with a century as Somerset gained maximum batting points, his exquisite 105 was his first Championship hundred of the season. Hildreth shared a second-wicket stand of 178 with skipper Tom Abell (82) and their good work was backed up by youngsters Tom Banton and George Bartlett, who both hit half-centuries.
But Hampshire’s seamers stuck to their task and Abbott produced an inspired spell of four for 22 from the Somerset Paviliion End late in the day as seven wickets fell for just 55 runs in bright sunshine.
By the close Hampshire had replied with 15 for one from seven overs, losing Ollie Soames, caught behind off Jamie Overton for a duck.
Somerset won the toss and elected to bat first on a used pitch. Clearly expecting it to turn as the game progressed, the home side selected a second spinner in Dom Bess in place of seamer Jack Brooks.
Hampshire made an early breakthrough with the total on 18, Azhar Ali’s poor season continuing when he played all around a straight ball from Abbott and departed lbw for 12.
But Abell showed good judgement on when to leave the ball as he and Hildreth saw off the new ball and laid the foundation for the biggest stand of the day.
Hildreth looked in prime form from the start and went to fifty off 78 balls, with 7 fours. By lunch, he and Abell had taken the total of 98 for one.
Abell was content to play the supporting role as Hildreth continued to prosper after the interval, bringing up the 45th first class century with a six over deep square off a long-hop from leg-spinner Mason Crane, who struggled for any semblance of control.
Abell went to a watchful half-century from 126 balls, with 5 fours, just the innings Somerset required to cure their top order batting problems.
With the score on 196, Hildreth was struck a blow on the helmet by Fidel Edwards, who worked up good pace from the River End. The next ball was also short and the batsman pulled to short mid-wicket where Keith Barker took a good diving catch.
Abell fell with the total on 237, edging Abbott to first slip and at tea it was 289 for three. Young guns Banton and Bartlett demonstrated their potential with a stand of 116 off 128 balls, both exuding confidence, before Banton, who had survived a stumping chance on 17, fell lbw to James Fuller for 79.
Steve Davies departed cheaply to Fuller and the second new ball was taken at 379 for five. From then on Hampshire hit back strongly led by Abbott.
He removed Lewis Gregory (25), Jamie Overton and Tim Groenewald for ducks with successive balls, and last man Jack Leach for six.
Bartlett became a second victim for Edwards, having contributed an impressive 68 and Somerset had cause to feel disappointed with their late order collapse.
Hampshire had substitute fielder Aneurin Donald keeping wicket for much of the day after Tom Alsop suffered a hamstring injury during the morning session. Donald was later replaced by specialist keeper Lewis McManus, who had been summoned to the ground.
Sam Northeast led the way for Hampshire on day two by scoring a chanceless century from 167 balls, giving Hampshire a realistic chance of gaining a result against Somerset.
Skipper Northeast made 101 and Ajinkya Rahane 55. Jamie Overton’s figures of 5-66 included a spell of three for 10 from six hostile overs at the River End with the second new ball, sending back Keith Barker (38), James Fuller (37) and Kyle Abbott to tilt the contest Somerset’s way.
The Hampshire captain’s century included stands of 101 with Rahane and 82 with Rilee Rossouw, who contributed 44.
Hampshire began the day on 15 for one in reply to 408 and soon lost Joe Weatherley, caught behind down the leg side off Overton for 14.
But, with the pitch offering little in terms of seam movement or spin, it was soon clear that Somerset would need to work hard for their wickets.
By lunch Northeast and Rahane had comfortably taken the total to 105 for two. The afternoon session saw both reach half-centuries, Northeast off 91 balls, with 7 fours, and Rahane off 103 deliveries, with eight boundaries.
Jack Leach broke the partnership with his left-arm spin, Rahane edging a drive to Lewis Gregory at slip. But it did little to check Hampshire’s momentum as the aggressive Rossouw joined an increasingly confident Northeast.
The Hampshire captain pulled Overton over fine leg for six before moving to three figures and Rossouw also cleared the rope, lofting Dom Bess back over his head.
Somerset’s young off-spinner, who enjoyed a meteoric rise to England’s Test team, was making his first Championship appearance of the season for the club, having been on loan at Yorkshire.
Bess was understandably delighted when claiming the wicket of Northeast, who drove a catch to short mid-wicket soon after completing his hundred.
It was 220 for four and in his next over, with five runs added, Bess struck again, pinning Rossouw lbw on the back foot.
Barker and Fuller then batted with assurance to take the total to 288 for five when the second new ball was taken for the 81stover.
From 306 for five, Hampshire then plunged to 314 for eight as wicketkeeper Steve Davies took three catches in quick succession off Overton, one of them down the leg side to dismiss Fuller.
All Overton's victims were caught by Davies, who now boasts the most dismissals by a keeper in the First Division of the Championship this season with 34.
With his team trailing by 94 runs, Tom Alsop, who injured a hamstring wicketkeeping on the first morning, limped out with Ollie Soames acting as his runner.
In glorious sunshine, Alsop and Mason Crane batted out the day against Leach and Bess, who ended with two for 57 from 17 overs, to leave the match intriguingly poised after two days of absorbing cricket.
Somerset strengthened their position at the top of the Specsavers County Championship with a resounding 313-run victory over injury-hit Hampshire on day four at Taunton.
Chasing 418 to win, the visitors were dismissed for 104 in the opening session of the final day, with Joe Weatherley unable to bat due to injury.
Jack Leach claimed three wickets and there were two each for Lewis Gregory, Jamie Overton and Dom Bess. James Fuller, who made 35, offered resistance, the right-hander sharing a 57-run partnership with Sam Northeast (23).
With Tom Alsop and Weatherley nursing hamstring and ankle injuries respectively, Hampshire were facing a mountainous task at the start of play.
It soon got even tougher as Ajinkya Rahane, without adding to his overnight score of eight, edged Gregory to Overton at second slip.
Overton then found the edge of nightwatchman Kyle Abbott’s bat as he defended against a sharply rising ball.
Soon it was 28 for four as Rilee Rossouw guided a short delivery from Overton to Tom Banton at gully.
It was Leach who struck a big blow by having Hampshire captain and first innings centurion Northeast brilliantly caught by Tom Abell at cover for 23.
The Somerset skipper dived forward full length to get his fingers under the ball and leave the visitors 85 for five with lunch still 25 minutes away. Keith Barker then picked out Abell at short mid-wicket as he looked to work Leach through the leg side.
Fuller produced some belligerent blows, hitting two boundaries in an over from Bess, before the off-spinner ended his determined innings with a brilliant delivery.
At 97 for seven, Fidel Edwards arrived at the crease after earlier injuries to Alsop and Weatherley, and the right-hander was bowled by Leach just before the scheduled lunch.
The interval was delayed and by 1.05pm the match was over, Bess capturing the final wicket as he dismissed Mason Crane.
Three wickets for Mason Crane and two each for Fidel Edwards, Keith Barker were the highlights for Hampshire on day three as Somerset built a substantial lead heading into the final day at Taunton.
Experienced Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali contributed a top score of 79 as Somerset posted 358 for eight declared in their second innings, a lead of 417.
Given an awkward four overs to bat in their second innings at the end of the day, Hampshire sent in Kyle Abbott to open with Oli Soames. They closed on 12 for one, when Soames was bowled by Lewis Gregory with the sixth ball, which jagged into him off the seam.
Tom Abell (58) and Tom Banton (70) also contributed with the bat after the visitors had been bowled out for 349 at the start of the morning session to concede a first innings deficit of 59.
Play began with the visitors 329 for eight in reply to 408. They added 20, Gregory removing the injured Tom Alsop, who again batted with a runner before lofting a catch to cover and Crane, caught at first slip.
Alsop’s wicket brought up the 250 landmark for Gregory. Jamie Overton was unable to add to his second day victims and finished with five for 70 from 23 overs.
Somerset’s success this season has come despite a shortage of runs from their top order. Their biggest opening partnership in the Championship had been just 30, but Azhar and Abell put that right with a stand of 128 in 29 overs.
Azhar, who went into the game averaging only 14, survived a close lbw shout from Abbott on 11 before gradually finding his form and moving to his half-century off 63 balls, with 8 fours.
By lunch he and Abell had taken the score to 110 without loss off 23 overs and the afternoon session soon saw the Somerset captain complete his second fifty of the match, from 80 deliveries, also with eight boundaries.
Keith Barker was the pick of the Hampshire attack and forced a ball through Abell’s defences to bowl him, quickly following up by having first innings centurion James Hildreth caught at slip for two.
It was 165 for three when Azhar was caught at third-man attempting an uppercut off Abbott. But Banton moved to his 73-ball half-century and at tea Somerset were 236 for three, with a lead of 295.
The final session saw George Bartlett (33), Banton, Gregory, Dom Bess and Overton perish at the hands of Crane and Edwards. Steve Davies was unbeaten on 36 when Abell closed the innings.