Vitality Blast – Central Group, Worcestershire v Somerset, Edgbaston, September 3 – Somerset 229-8 (Davies 60, Babar 42) beat Worcestershire 213-7 (Libby 75*, Mitchell 45, Davey 4-41) by 16 runs
How do you even begin to unpack this mad game? Even in the bizarro world of T20 cricket this was a game beyond description. Somerset recorded their highest ever score away from home in T20 cricket, just shy of 12 an over but in truth they should have scored 20 or 30 more. Remarkably they needed pretty much all of them to pick up their second win of the week in the central group.
The 19th over of Somerset’s innings was, in the end, the difference between the sides. It is probably also the most bizarre over I have seen in my 50+ years of watching cricket.
The over was started by Worcestershire skipper Ed Barnard who was already handicapped by the need to have a fifth fielder in the 30yd circle, the new punishment for a team that is behind the over rate. Barnard’s first two balls were over waist high no balls which Roelof van der Merwe managed to carve for six and four in a way possibly only he can. The next ball was a wide, so wide that it missed the cut strip which meant Barnard was unable to bowl again in. the innings. At that point 15 runs had been scored without a legitimate ball being bowled. The over eventually cost 29 runs.
Worcestershire who looked dead and buried at the interval but remarkably they fell only 16 runs short. A deficit that flattered last season’s losing finalists and was principally due to the seventh wicket partnership (the four-day opening pair) of Jake Libby and Daryl Mitchell who kept Worcestershire in with an outside chance after they had sunk to 117-6 in the 13th over.
In reality this was never a game that Somerset were never seriously in danger of losing. They out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded their opponents but it was a game that was defined by the short boundary, again, at Edgbaston.
Rant time. In the last thirteen months Somerset have played at Birmingham’s “test match” venue three times. Twice in the four day and today in the Blast. On each occasion there has been a comically almost criminally short boundary on one side of the wicket which has made a mockery of the game. The bowlers never really had a chance.
Somerset’s bowlers should, for the reasons stated above be absolved from any blame. Not only were they always going to suffer the consequences of the short boundary, but they were facing batsmen who had no option but to chance their arm. There was no point falling short with plenty of wickets in hand.
The difference between the two bowling attacks was night and day. Worcestershire bowlers contributed 20 (6nb, 14 wides) evidence of their lack of control, poor discipline and consistently failing to find the right length.
Pick of the Somerset bowlers was Josh Davey. You have to love Somerset’s Mr Reliable, probably the best unsung player in English domestic cricket. Nothing seems to faze him he just sticks to his fundamentals and it pays dividends pretty much every time. He capped a fine performance with a stunning caught and bowled to remove Ben Cox and picked up four wickets in all to go with his 2-17 on Tuesday. Hopefully, having demonstrated his white ball skills in last season’s winning RLODC campaign, he has now cemented the place in the T20 side he didn’t win last season
As for the batting, Steve Davies and Babar Azam were sublime, Hildreth and Abell awesome, Byrom and Green very handy. But the man with the best strike rate, 277.77, was Roelof van der Merwe with 25 off 9 balls. Two other Somerset batsmen had strike rates of 200 or over (Abell and Green) and Somerset’s slowest scorer? Apart from poor Lewis who got a first-baller, Babar Azam at a stately 120 per 100 balls!
Ollie Sale took a splendid catch in the outfield and impressed with the ball again, being entrusted with the last over in a huge vote of confidence. Lewis Gregory looked every inch a bowler who has spent much of his summer with the England set up.
Rarely for a T20 game this is one that will linger long in the memory.
Somerset are back in action tomorrow at the CACG against Birmingham Bears. A third win in a row would do very nicely thank you.