Somerset sneak through
Somerset gained sweet revenge over defending champions Hampshire and progressed to the Friends Life t20 final for a second year in succession following another dramatic one-over eliminator at Edgbaston.
As was the case in last year’s final, the teams were tied at the end of their respective innings, with Arul Suppiah run out attempting to score a single from the final ball that would have earned Somerset victory.
However, while Hampshire triumphed at the Rose Bowl last year by virtue of having lost fewer wickets, it was Marcus Trescothick’s men who emerged victorious on this occasion as they collected 16 runs to their opponents' five in the shootout that followed.
Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler were responsible for Somerset’s one-over score, before Alfonso Thomas held his nerve with the ball to frustrate Shahid Afridi, who had earlier contributed 80 to a total of 138 for four from 15.5 overs, and Jimmy Adams.
Buttler, who was this week called up to England’s squad for the NatWest International T20 against India, looked to have done enough to get Somerset to their revised target of 95 in 10 overs as he compiled a blistering 32 from just 16 balls.
Yet his departure in the final over, with two still required from four balls, proved costly as Hampshire captain Dominic Cork used all his experience to keep his side in the match.
After his side had eventually come out on top, Buttler admitted: "I messed up. I play instinctively, see ball, hit ball."
A relieved Trescothick added: "The weather's been tough on us, but we've played some fantastic cricket."
Somerset now face two-time winners Leicestershire, who defeated Lancashire in similarly absorbing circumstances earlier today, in the final.
Hampshire’s innings was interrupted on three occasions by rain, with the final shower bringing an end to their efforts with the bat.
A seemingly imposing total was underpinned by Afridi, who has primarily made an impression with the ball in recent years but today reminded everyone of his ability with the bat.
The Pakistan all-rounder cleared the ropes on five occasions in an exhilarating 42-ball innings also containing six fours.
After Jimmy Adams had holed out off George Dockrell for 10 in the third over, Afridi dominated a second-wicket stand of 64 with James Vince, striking maximums off Craig Meschede, Murali Kartik and Suppiah.
Kartik removed Vince for a useful 22, but runs continued to flow freely and Hampshire’s 100 arrived in the 11th over when a diving Peter Trego was unable to stop a fierce swipe from Afridi towards long-on.
After Neil McKenzie had been trapped lbw by Meschede for four, Afridi swatted Kieron Pollard over midwicket before flicking the Trinidadian over long-on for another six.
His exhilarating innings was ended with the final ball of the 14th over, with the score on 128, when Thomas demolished the stumps with a length delivery, but by that stage it was clear Somerset would face a demanding chase.
However, after further showers had delayed their reply by more than half an hour, they quickly moved ahead of the required rate.
Trescothick collected fours through the covers from two of Dimitri Mascarenhas’ first three deliveries and Kieswetter quickly settled into his stride as Cork’s opening over yielded 18.
After three overs Somerset had raced to 40 without loss, but the introduction of spin provided Hampshire with immediate rewards as Kieswetter chipped Danny Briggs’ first delivery to long-off.
Following an over from Afridi, Imran Tahir struck with successive deliveries at the start of his spell. Pollard fell in similar fashion to Kieswetter, but from a full toss, while Trescothick, having reached 28, top-edged a sweep to short fine-leg.
Buttler got Somerset back on track with huge sixes down the ground off Briggs and Tahir respectively.
The youngster then survived a sharp caught and bowled chance off Tahir and made the leg-spinner pay by launching the next ball into the stands at long-on.
At that stage Somerset appeared almost certain to reach the final, but there was to be another twist in the tale as James Hildreth slog-swept Afridi to deep midwicket and Buttler threw his wicket away by needlessly picking out Vince at long-off.
With just one run coming from the next two balls, Suppiah needed to score from Cork’s final delivery, but, after a lengthy delay, he was run out by Vince, who ran in from short cover to remove the bails at the non-striker’s end.
Somerset would not be denied again, however, and both Kieswetter, with 11 not out, and Buttler found the fence in the subsequent eliminator.
When Afridi failed to connect with the first two balls from Thomas, Hampshire’s hopes were in tatters and they were unable to pull off another great escape.