Somerset are within touching distance of their first ever County Cricket Championship, but the situation is complicated by the fact that their only two rivals are in direct opposition.
THE CURRENT STATE OF PLAY
Courtesy of cricinfo, here is the situation in the key matches:
The situation is that a draw in the Middlesex v Yorkshire game is not enough for either side – the five points they would each gain from that would still leave them adrift of Somerset. Tomorrow is the last day of the match, which means that time constraints are well and truly in play. Clearly, with a draw rendered worthless by the situation both sides will do all in their power to win the game, which leads given time limitations to the question of just what would be acceptable in the way of a third innings declaration by Middlesex. It is possible that Yorkshire could win the match in the most satisfactory way, by taking the remaining eight Middlesex wickets early enough to give themselves an easy fourth innings target. For Middlesex the question would be how much risk could they take in setting a target bearing in mind that they have to have a legitimate chance of taking 10 wickets to do so?
ACCEPTABLE VS UNACCEPTABLE
Given that Middlesex are still 39 runs behind, unless Yorkshire deliberately concede runs to hasten a declaration (which would certainly cause raised eyebrows in Taunton) it is unlikely that Middlesex would be in a position to consider a declaration much before teatime. My own rough and ready view is that if come the tea break tomorrow Middlesex have a lead of somewhere in the region of 170 that in the circumstances would be an acceptable risk – Yorkshire would have to go for the target, and an asking rate of approximately 5.5 an over with no fielding restrictions would introduce enough risks that Middlesex could hope for the 10 wickets they need. A declaration giving Yorkshire 120 or so to chase in that final session would definitely (albeit actuated by very different motives) be verging on ‘Cronje’ territory, and almost regardless of when it was made, a declaration giving a target of under 100 should be considered as out and out match fixing.
Although I have indicated previously that as an underdog supporter I would like to see Somerset win, the key thing here is that any victory for Middlesex or Yorkshire should be seen to have been won out on the field, and not in the dressing rooms.