Essex tightened their grip on the Specsavers County Championship title race as the third day of their Taunton clash with rivals Somerset was washed out.

Play was finally abandoned at 4.35pm, leaving Somerset in the unenviable position of needing to take 20 Essex wickets on the final day to claim the pennant for the first time.

Even if the weather improves, and there is a kinder forecast for Thursday, Essex should avoid the ignominy of being bowled out twice to win a second Championship title in three seasons.

Essex were 25 without loss, Nick Browne unbeaten on 16 and Alastair Cook on five, in reply to Somerset’s first-innings total of 203.

Overnight rain meant a morning mopping-up exercise and added to the frustration of 119 overs being lost during the first two days.

Umpires Alex Wharf and Rob Bailey held several inspections as squally showers gave way to brighter skies.

But the rain returned in mid-afternoon to leave Essex on the brink of winning their eighth Championship title.

And that would also complete a memorable double for Essex who were also crowned Vitality Blast champions last weekend.

However, Somerset director of cricket Andy Hurry refused to concede that the county championship title race is over and he is still hoping his side can secure the win they need to overtake Essex.

“Our challenge has become stiffer but having displayed courage, conviction and belief all season, we are not going to lose it overnight,” said Hurry.

“We have put too much on the line for too long to wave the white flag. That’s not what we are about.

“Thursday is about giving 100 per cent and, whatever happens, putting down a marker for next year.

“I have total belief in our players and staff.

“This summer there has been some amazing cricket, with huge twists and turns.

“Anything can happen and we have to keep believing.

“Today we trust in the officials, who look after the players’ interests in making sure conditions are fit for both teams. #

“They explained to me that on the Somerset Pavilion side of the ground it was damp all the way across with water coming up and the surface moving, so it was not fit for play.”

>Voting is underway for Essex’s player of the year award.

To cast your vote visit the club’s website,

One lucky voter will also be picked to attend the end of season award night which will be held at the Cloudfm County Ground in Chelmsford on Friday September 27.