Somerset seal finals day return
Somerset booked their place at Friends Life t20 finals day for a fourth successive year with a convincing 27-run victory over Essex at Taunton.
Marcus Trescothick’s men are always a formidable force in the shortest form of the game and have finished as runners-up in the domestic Twenty20 competition for the past three years.
The Midlands/Wales/West Group winners will now have the opportunity to end their run of near misses in Cardiff on August 25 following another assured demonstration of their talent.
James Hildreth’s 36-ball 58 helped Somerset, who lost the toss, to a total of 175 for six, more than had looked likely after 16 overs when they had only 128 on the board.
Essex, who included England Test duo Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara in their line-up, were then hampered by the loss of early wickets, which saw the required run-rate spiral out of control.
They were ultimately dismissed for 148 in the 19th over, despite a defiant 24-ball 47 from Ryan ten Doeschate.
Somerset’s innings got off to the worst possible start when Craig Kieswetter, fresh from back-to-back hundreds in the LV= County Championship and Clydesdale Bank 40, holed out to Cook at long-off from the first ball of the match, bowled by Tim Phillips.
Fit-again skipper Marcus Trescothick and Richard Levi both fell to excellent catches off teenage left-arm seamer Reece Topley, who returned 3-27. The former picked out a diving Graham Napier at short fine-leg, while Levi was caught behind by James Foster standing up.
Jos Buttler looked in fine touch and was particularly fluent through the off side en route to 33, but he then picked out long-off to become Topley’s third victim and Cook claimed another catch, this time off David Masters, to send Albie Morkel packing for eight.
The momentum shifted in Somerset’s favour when Hildreth, utilising his crease well and exhibiting a wide range of strokes, collected four successive fours off Masters to pass 50 in the 17th over. He also hit the next delivery he faced for four and Bopara conceded five wides before Hildreth was eventually run out.
Essex quickly found themselves in trouble in reply.
Mark Pettini pulled Alfonso Thomas to mid-off, Bopara departed for a second-ball duck when he was caught at short midwicket off Peter Trego and Morkel then had Owais Shah caught at third man.
After James Franklin had been run out, Cook departed for 28 when he attempted to pull Trego and got a top-edge to Levi, running round from short fine-leg.
Essex limped to 56 for five after 10 overs and the dismissals of dangermen James Foster, caught and bowled by George Dockrell for 26, and Graham Napier, who pulled Lewis Gregory to square-leg, ended any realistic hopes of a late fightback.
Gregory had Phillips caught at mid-off and although ten Doeschate, who thumped four fours and three sixes, did not give up, there was simply too much ground to make up.
With 29 required from two overs following back-to-back maximums from the Dutchman, Masters was yorked by Gregory and the same bowler had ten Doeschate caught in the deep to finish with 4-39.