Somerset 359 for 3 (Renshaw 146, Abell 90*) trail Essex 505 for 9 dec (Browne 234*, Walter 86) by 146 runs
Abell missed two months with a hamstring injury last year and ultimately managed only one match for Birmingham Phoenix, where he is again contracted this season.
Concern about Abell apart, a solid draw against Essex at Chelmsford would be a decent outcome for Somerset in their attempt to salvage their Division One status, not that anybody knows how Division One will look next season as the Championship continues along its merry way in blissful ignorance about what the future holds.
Harmer took two of the three wickets to fall and, even though his turn was desultory and what edges there were died well in front of the close fielders, he was still the dominant presence of an attritional day as he extended his figures to 2 for 84 from 48 overs. But Somerset have averted the follow-on with ease and the dreariest of draws looks inevitable.
Abell, 27 not out overnight, accompanied Renshaw well into the afternoon, but he was forced to retire on 90 after he appeared to damage a hamstring taking a second run when their partnership had grown to 193 runs. Neither approached the enterprising style that had marked the beginning of their stand the previous evening, but with Somerset scheduled to face four sides in the bottom half when the Championship resumes in September, a draw will leave their fate very much in their hands.
On his 100th first-class appearance, Adam Rossington was absent having taken a blow on a finger when he badly dropped Renshaw in the first over of the innings; the implications of that became painfully obvious. Will Buttleman stood in behind the stumps throughout the day, and he had a hand in Renshaw’s dismissal when he moved down the leg side to intercept a gloved hook against Aaron Beard.
Renshaw, who has made five of his 15 first-class hundreds for Somerset, in two spells, found his concentration wavering after he reached three figures and he was twice reprieved, in consecutive overs, by Alastair Cook at first slip when on 106 and 108. The first, off the legspinner Matt Critchley, low to his left, was most catchable.
George Bartlett played Harmer with confidence and his straight six took Somerset’s second-wicket stand to a record against Essex, but he was caught off the glove at short leg attempting a reverse sweep.