Oh Rilee Rilee

A second win on the bounce for Somerset in T20 cricket at Canterbury. This wasn’t quite as comprehensive as last year’s 10-wicket Tom Banton and Devon Conway inspired triumph, but it was pretty good all the same. The perfect start to the 2022 T20 campaign and the perfect response to Saturday’s chastening championship defeat at Taunton.

Kent v Somerset, T20 South Group Canterbury, May 25th Somerset 166-2 (Rossouw 81*[54-7-2], Abell 48*[29-5-1]) beat Kent 162-6 (Leaning 72*, Gregory 3-25) by 8 wickets with 5 balls to spare

Those of you have followed my stuff since I began writing about Somerset cricket will know that I enjoy a Somerset win over Kent more than most. It is fair to say after the trauma of Saturday (which I’m still not over by the way) this win was just the tonic I needed. The fact that it was a win achieved so comfortably, with our overseas player starring and the new T20 captain playing a decisive supporting role made beating the Men of Kent all the more special.

Anyone who listened to Monday’s Somerset Podcast will know that we were all way off in our team selections for this game. The absence of Craig Overton to the England squad, which we had all assumed would not happen until the weekend, was a big factor as was Peter Siddle not playing a part.

No Max Waller either with Lewis Goldsworthy’s batting probably tipping the balance for the second spinner’s spot. The biggest surprise though was Tom Lammonby opening the bowling. 

But for me, Siddle’s absence was the big worry. He is a smart, clever T20 bowler who would have thrived on the surface at Canterbury. He would also have provided some valuable support to Captain Tom in a frenetic last 9 overs of the Kent innings. Something which judging by Abell’s comments after the game he would have welcomed.

Kent clearly made the wrong decision at the toss, as Sam Billings admitted to Sky after the game. Batting first meant they faced Somerset’s seamers when the conditions were at their most bowler-friendly. The pitch eased a little and, when the dew of a chilly Canterbury evening arrived early in Somerset’s innings, the balance between bat and ball shifted emphatically toward the visitors. 

Somerset’s chase of 163 for victory was probably 20-30 more than it should have been but after the loss of Will Smeed, who looked to be in prime form, with the score on 45 at the end of the 7th over Rossouw and Abell measured the chase to perfection to see their side home to a win that had the sparse, chilly crowd heading for the exits well before the winning runs were scored. This was Somerset’s second highest third-wicket partnership in T20, bettered only by Tres and Hildy at Chelmsford in 2011.

Rossouw showed what had attracted Andy Hurry to sign him, this was not the frenetic see ball, hit ball version of the South African left-hander but a more composed, measured iteration. Not to the level of Devon Conway mind you, there were still some injudicious slogs and a chance which Bell-Drummond should have taken at backward point before he reached 50 off a hack outside off stump. But to his credit he did what he is paid to do seeing his side home and recording his highest Blast score in the process.

Rilee Rossouw – T20 best on Somerset debut

You can be pretty certain in the 2020s that if there is a successful Somerset run chase in a T20 Tom Abell will have played a big part. Thankfully retained at 4 in the order he was magnificent, playing the perfect foil to Rilee. Abell didn’t panic when the runs needed/balls remaining equation looked challenging, he knew that if he batted to the 20th over his side were going to win and paced his innings accordingly. Abell seems to sense just the right moment to press the accelerator not only in terms of the run chase itself but in sensing vulnerability in the opposition. The intensity of Abell’s innings and his ability to rotate the strike when the boundary opportunities weren’t there is shown by the fact that he faced only four dot balls in his innings.

The Kent innings was very much one of two halves. Tight bowling, good lengths and clever changes of pace from Davey, Green and Gregory, punctuated by wickets falling at regular intervals meant Kent were only 85-5 in the 14th over when Cox was dismissed.

Kent, credit to them (he says through gritted teeth), recovered well thanks to Jack Leaning’s 72 supported by Linde and Stewart. Lewis Goldsworthy’s second over went for 20 and Marchant de Lange, who won’t look back on his trip to the cathedral city with much affection, 39 in his three.Left to bowl the death overs de Lange’s pace and length proved just perfect for range hitting by powerful, well-set batsmen. Fortunately it was to proved just enough.

Tom Abell, as self-effacing as ever, thought he had made some tactical errors in the field and said his head “was spinning” after his captaincy stint. (Did I mention Siddle’s value in this regard?) On this occasion, being hyper-critical, the error was that he limited his bowling options toward the death by using both Lewis Gregory and Ben Green’s overs too early, leaving only M de L as his only option for the 20th over. It could have been far worse apart from a superb 19th over from Josh Davey.

Fortunately those last five overs weren’t terminal for Abell and Somerset but I expcect to see some tweaks in the plans for Sunday and perhaps a couple of changes in personnel…..

Oh and by the way Sam Billings said that there were some “great learnings” from the defeat.