Taunton’s New Favourite Son?

Taunton has a new favourite son. After announcing himself as a prodigious talent last year Will Smeed treated the Taunton crowd to another of his already trademark Pyro-batting displays to see Somerset home with ease against Essex

Somerset v Essex, T20 South Group, Taunton, May 29th Essex 139-9 (de Lange 4-9, Davey 3-11) Somerset 147-4 (Rossouw 67*[29-2-7], Smeed 58*[30-4-5]) by 6 wickets with 32 balls to spare(D/L)

Rarely has such a comprehensive T20 win at Taunton been completed in such a low-key anti-climatic way. Set 104 to win in 18 overs Will Smeed and Rilee Rossouw had rocketed the reply to 129-1 in the 11th over, needing only 15 when Smeed departed. Two balls later Rossouw followed and unsurprisingly given the pyrotechnics that they had just witnessed- 102 in 46 balls – the crowd was left feeling a little flat. Those last 15 runs only took 3 overs but a rate of 5 an over seemed Boycottesque by comparison. The loss of the skipper for just 3 only served to flatten the mood.

BUT this was a terrific all-round performance begun with Josh Davey and Tom Lammonby both bowling their pace off stuff with commendable control to reduce Essex to 7-2 in the third over. Wrestled back by Marchant de Lange after Critchley and “the red hot chilli Pepper” (copyright A Gibson) had put Essex in prime position at 83-2 in the 9th over and then clinically wrapped up by Davey and de Lange after a one-hour rain break, a collapse that began with Critchley’s dismissal for a very good 60 that made the score 123-6.

De Lange, who had taken two wickets in his second over, took another brace in his third (Sams and Nijjar) as four wickets fell for four runs in six balls.

Marchant de Lange – when he is good he is very very good

Once the Duckworth-Lewis calculations had been done Somerset needed 144 in 18 but with the rain threatening all around Taunton there was plenty of jeopardy in the run chase. When a worryingly scratchy Tom Banton went for 2 out of 27 to the first ball of the fourth over there was just a tinge of worry but that was rapidly dispelled, and Will and Rilee went to work. Between them they faced 59 balls smashing 6 fours and an astonishing 12 sixes. This was like batting practice in the middle as the two pummelled the opposition bowlers who had nowhere to bowl to this left-hand right-hand combination.

So a home opener to warm the heart on a chilly late May afternoon, the “good” de Lange proving why he is in the side (when he is good he is very very good, when he is ……), Rilee Rossouw delivering again and Josh Davey, in his quiet unassuming way delivering yet again. Perhaps he is the answer to the death bowling conundrum.

But the day belongs to the 20-year-old Kings College graduate Smeed. He showed that his breakout season of 2021 was no fluke while whetting the appetite for more in this season’s Blast.

Two games, two solid all-round team performances and two wins sees Somerset top the nascent south group table. But there is no time to rest or even breathe with a game at the Rose Bowl tomorrow and two more home games on Wednesday and Friday.