Taunton made it six wins in a row to keep their promotion chances well and truly alive with a convincing win over league leaders Midsomer Norton on Saturday.
Fiery opening spells from Harry Popplewell and George Cook reduced the previously unbeaten league leaders to 29 for five before a defiant 66 not out from Jon Harvey helped his side stutter to 164 for nine at the halfway point.
After tea yet another half-century from Tom Abell then helped the hosts cruise to victory with six wickets and almost 20 overs remaining.
After the game a buoyant vice-captain Ben Orr heaped praise upon his in-form teammates, but admitted they would still need a favour from elsewhere if the Championship dream were to be realised:
"Another fantastic afternoon at the Vale this season, we are playing a really tough brand of cricket at home in particular," he said.
"A big thank you must go to our groundsman Rob Hake for producing fantastic cricket wickets, that give our batsman the confidence to set or chase big totals while encouraging our quicker men to bend their backs and put the opposition on the back foot.
"Pops & George were superb, to have the unbeaten (at the time) league leaders in the trouble they did was fantastic.
"Harry spent some time bowling at the New Zealand A players at the county ground this week and clearly had his tail up after that experience, clean bowling the leagues second top scorer after having had him dropped the ball before has got to be a season highlight for me.
"If we are being super critical having had them five down for less than 30 we would have liked to have bowled them out for under 120 but we are playing on first-class quality tracks at the Vale so to bowl any side out is a challenge especially the league leaders.
"Their young lad Harvey batted extremely well for his side considering the situation they found themselves in. What we did do well though is keep things very tight throughout the innings and we were very confident of chasing down a total of well under 200 at tea.
"Tom & Chris got us off to the perfect start, with almost another 100 opening stand from the two of them, they have both been fantastic this season.
"No surprise though that Tabes was in blistering form after yet another Somerset 2nd XI century in the week. We all just sit in awe watching Tom bat, soaking up every moment before the inevitable county first team call up arrives.
"Hugh proved his value to the side with a excellent innings to guide us to the winning total and keep us in the hunt for promotion.
"We know having been so badly affected by the weather early season our destiny is still just out of our hands, having said that all we need to do is keep our winning streak going and control our performances. Results elsewhere will be as they will be.
"To be well clear in second with three games to go after the past couple of seasons is a real boost to the club, and we will be doing our very best to ensure the league title is not decided until the final game of the summer!"
On an overcast afternoon at Gypsy Lane skipper Cooper called correctly and had no hesitation asking the visitors to set a target to be chased.
And the decision paid instant dividends with his protein-laden seamers ripping through the Midsomer top order.
Boasting a combined bench-press weight significantly more than will ever come in handy outside the four walls of the gymnasium, the Popplewell-Cook combo took no prisoners as the shell-shocked visitors found themselves five down barely an hour after they had arrived in TA2.
Messrs Harvey (10), Lear (1), Cox (5) and Clifton (5) were all back in the hutch before raising a sweat, while Taunton’s potent pair combined to dismiss the dangerous Nick Pang (3) when Popplewell turned a routine one-handed grab at fine leg into the catch of his life after parrying the ball up and plucking it at the second attempt.
Despite a gritty 66 not out from Jon Harvey, ensuring that the batting side reached triple figures, others continued to fall around him at regular intervals as the title favourites limped to a below par total.
Popplewell finished as the pick of the bowlers with three for 22 from his full quota, while the equally impressive Cook also finished with a trio of victims to his name.
The skipper also himself got in on the act with a pair of scalps on his way to two for 25, with spin twins Graham Fitt (9-1-24-1) and Ben Orr (10-1-31-0) economical as ever.
In Somerset starlet Tom Abell and Australian import Chris Davenport Taunton have two of the leagues leading run-scorers and in the in-form pair were in no mood to mess about in pursuit of their 170-run victory target.
By the time Davenport (35) fell with the score on 99 the hosts were well on the way to their ninth victory of the season and when Abell passed 50 for the sixth time in nine innings shortly afterwards the win was all but in the bag.
The lively Alex Davis had time to pick up the prized scalp of the league’s number one batsman for 64 before dismissing Cooper (4) shortly afterwards, however, there were no signs of a wobble as the assured Hugh Kelly (29 not out) ensured his side’s 100 per cent winning record on home soil was maintained.
The result means that Jack Cooper’s men have narrowed the gap at the business end of the table as the season draws nearer to a close, but still leaves them 24 points behind Saturday’s visitors in the race for promotion.
© Cricket World 2014