Craig Overton was agonisingly dismissed one short of a maiden first-class century as Somerset moved into a strong position on the third day of the LV=County Championship Division One match with Lancashire’s cricketers at Taunton.
The 20-year-old all-rounder left the field with a hand clutching his face, clearly distraught, after being caught one-handed at slip by Paul Horton off Simon Kerrigan having hit nine fours and two sixes in his 135-ball innings.
Overton shared a stand of 140 with Alfonso Thomas - a ninth-wicket record in matches between Somerset and Lancashire - before Somerset were bowled out for 484, a first innings lead of 218.
Marcus Trescothick had earlier fallen for 128 and Alviro Petersen for 73 as Lancashire fought back at the start of the third day. But the late innings runs from Overton, Thomas (54) and Lewis Gregory (26) left the visitors with a tough task to save the game on a dry, wearing pitch.
Lancashire closed on 59 without loss, Horton having been forced to retire hurt on one after ducking into a Thomas bouncer.
Alex Davies was unbeaten on 38 and Usman Khawaja 14, having survived a tough chance to Overton at mid-off before he had scored, with Thomas the unlucky bowler.
Somerset began the day on 193 for two in reply to 266, with Trescothick on 107 and Petersen 57. The South African added 16 to his score before edging a ball from Glen Chapple to be caught behind.
James Hildreth flattered to deceive with a couple of sweet boundaries before falling lbw to Tom Smith for 10 and it was 251 for five when Trescothick’s brilliant innings ended as he miscued a drive to point off the same bowler.
Craig Kieswetter took Somerset into the lead before falling leg before to Wayne White for 15, but when Peter Trego was lbw to Kerrigan for 25 pushing well forward the hosts were 290 for seven and only 24 in front.
A key moment came when Overton, on five, was dropped by Horton at first slip off White with the score on 294. It proved a very expensive error as Gregory hit Kerrigan for six over long-off to clinch a third batting point in the 109th over.
Gregory was caught at fine leg attempting a third successive pulled boundary off White and at 327 for eight, Lancashire were still in the game.
Overton and Thomas changed that, putting together a century partnership in 24.3 overs. The tall Overton lofted Kerrigan for six over long on and then cleared the mid-wicket rope in the same over with a cleaner hit.
The North Devon youngster passed his previous career-best score of 86 and looked on course for three figures when aiming an expansive drive at Kerrigan and edging to Horton, who took a sharp catch.
Overton left the field to a standing ovation and applause from both dressing room balconies. The unflappable Thomas went on to a half-century off 114 balls, with three fours, and was last man out.
At the close, Overton said: “At the time I was desperately disappointed to get out so close to a hundred and I had to drag myself off the field.
“But now I am more positive about having helped the team into a position where we can look to win the game. It was the best I have batted in a Championship match.”
Kerrigan said: “Paul Horton had a big lump on the back of his head when he came off and has been sitting with eyes closed in the dressing room. But the swelling has already gone down a bit and, with a good night’s sleep, we hope he will be okay for tomorrow.
“I was a bit frustrated with my bowling. I have been feeling good recently and believed I was making progress, but this was a helpful pitch and it was a step back for me.”