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Gloucestershire is close to within 134 runs of Somerset in the County Championship

Imamul-Haq’s defiant 90 on his Somerset debut on day two of the County Championship match at Taunton did not prevent Gloucestershire from building a strong position.

After dismissing their opponents for 343, from 320-6 overnight, the home side slumped to 87-4 and looked in danger of failing to reach the follow-on mark of 194 against their arch-rivals.

But Pakistan’s Test opener Imam, signed for the last four Championship games as Somerset try to avoid relegation from Division One, faced 162 balls and hit 12 fours to save his side from that embarrassment. I helped.

Thanks largely to the 26-year-old left-hander’s model technique, the home side reached 209-8 at the end of the rain-interrupted day, but still trailed by 134.

Teenager James Reeve contributed an invaluable 35 not out, occupying the crease for more than three hours, while Tom Price was the pick of Gloucestershire’s seam attack, claiming 4-49 from 18 overs.

The start of play at the Cooper Associates County Ground was delayed until 11:15 BST after heavy overnight rain.

The momentum was with Somerset from the last session of the first day and their bowlers wasted no time in it.

With just eight runs added, Tom Price was caught behind driving a wide delivery from Lewis Gregory, who had David Payne caught next ball.

Jack Taylor had added just five to his overnight 15 when Gregory ended the innings by pinning Ajit Dale on leg before mis-driving Josh Davey and delivering a return catch.

Gregory finished with 4-62 and Davie 3-80. Gloucestershire’s last nine wickets fell for 92 runs, but it soon exposed their opponents’ weak batting line-up.

Tom Lemmonby was dropped by Marcus Harris at second slip in the opening over, but then on the next ball, another Payne out-swinger, to wicketkeeper James Bracey.

It was 17-2 when skipper Tom Able gave a backfoot shot to Ollie Price at Dale’s second slip.

George Bartlett helped Imam steady the ship, contributing 33 in a stand of 57 either side of lunch, before losing his off-stump, shouldering Price.

With 13 more to go, Lewis Goldsworthy glanced a leg-side delivery from Price to Bracey and Somerset were in a deep hole.

But by then Imam was well set. Like Gloucestershire’s Centurion Harris yesterday, he combined his Test match quality with solid defending to prove that he is an unbeatable ability to punish any loose ends.

Imam scored a flawless 108-ball fifty and found an equally solid partner in fellow left-hander Rio as the pair took the score to 135-4 by tea.

The 18-year-old wicket-keeper has been in excellent form in Somerset’s opening matches and again looked completely out of control under pressure.

The rain that swirled around the Cooper Associates County Ground started at 16:00, adding 11 runs to the final session and the stand between Imam and Rio was 59.

Play resumed 40 minutes later and Tom Price scored a major blow for Gloucestershire when Imam made a defensive push to give Bracey his third catch.

Three balls later, Gregory took a catch at second slip to give Price his fourth wicket. Brother Ollie, who makes the catch, then throws Rio over the drink.

Casey Aldridge dragged a delivery from Josh Shaw onto his stumps and at 163-7, Somerset still had 31 runs to avoid being asked to bat again.

Davy becomes another victim of Bracey, who outwits Dale. But, with the floodlights on, Reeve remained unconcerned and went for 28 when a boundary was marked to third man which meant the follow-on was averted.

Sajid Khan escaped a chance in front of Harris at third slip as Price denied the fifth victim and Somerset secured a valuable batting point.

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