Nick Compton boosted his chances of England selection with a timely century as Somerset tightened their grip on the LV= County Championship Division One clash with Worcestershire at Taunton.
The leading run-maker in first-class cricket this summer was returning to action after a back problem but it did not show as he hit an unbeaten 114 in a Somerset total of 451 for seven, which also featured 146 from Marcus Trescothick.
That gave the hosts a lead of 239 with two days to go and took Compton’s first-class tally for the season to 1,453 runs at an average of 96.86.
Somerset began the day on 142 without loss in reply to 212 and soon lost Arul Suppiah, caught and bowled by Moeen Ali for 75 off a checked drive, having added only two to his overnight score.
Trescothick had resumed on 66 and after surviving some scares against Alan Richardson, who bowled beautifully without luck before lunch, moved to his century off 187 balls with 13 fours.
Lunch was taken at 227 for one and the pitch inspector, who had stayed on after Abdur Rehman’s nine-wicket first-day haul, was able to abandon any thought that the wicket was unduly spinner-friendly.
Trescothick and Compton had taken the total to 307 when the Somerset skipper edged to second slip to at last give
37-year-old Richardson some reward for his efforts.
The former England opener’s innings had spanned 260 balls and, while not one of his most fluent, was hugely important for his team as they chase the runners-up spot in the Championship for only the third time in their history, having never won it.
Richardson continued to bowl with great heart and gained thoroughly deserved leg-before verdicts against James Hildreth (19) and Chris Jones (one) on his way to figures of three for 65 from 35 overs as Somerset moved to 343 for four.
Compton had moments of fortune, but again displayed his powers of concentration in moving to his 16th first-class hundred off 248 deliveries, with nine fours and a straight six off Moeen.
With Somerset already 131 ahead when he walked to the crease, Pete Trego was able to enjoy himself with a rapid 45 off as many balls, with five fours and two sixes, before being bowled by a slower ball from Chris Russell.
Craig Overton and Steve Snell fell cheaply to Moeen, but there was no disturbing Compton, who has now scored 239 more first-class runs than his nearest challenger in the national averages, Hildreth (1,214), despite playing in three fewer matches than his Somerset team-mate.
Compton was happy with the way the day went for his team. He said: “I think that we have a good lead at the moment and more runs doesn’t do us any harm with two days left.
“We keep plugging away, even though things haven’t gone our way with injuries and so on this year, and we are probably going to come second in the Championship, which is fantastic.”
The 29-year-old went on: “To clinch the runners-up spot is a big turn around, and I think it’s indicative of the spirit here. I’m pretty proud of that achievement.”