South Group: Somerset 181-3 (Gayle 49) beat Essex 178-3 (ten Doeschate 47; Gregory 2-25) by seven wickets
Somerset obtained their first points of their Natwest T20 Blast campaign with a seven-wicket win over Essex Eagles at Taunton
Chris Gayle top scored with 49, whilst Jim Allenby batted through for 37*, matched by his compatriot at the close, Lewis Gregory as Somerset finished with 13 balls to spare.
Earlier, Gregory had taken 2-25 whilst Ryan ten Doeschate top-scored with 47 and Tom Westley hit 40 for the away side.
The majority of the crowd came to watch the Universe Boss and he didn’t disappoint, at one point even saying: “All these people queuing waiting for autographs and selfies with me, I might be here all night, but they deserve it.”
The crowds’ obsession with one man at the Cooper Associates Ground was summed up when Allenby felt the need to hold up his hand in apology after taking one off the last ball of the fifth over, depriving Gayle of the strike.
The Essex bowlers couldn’t work out how to restrict Gayle in full form, resorting to an outside-off ploy, which backfired when 10 wides in a total of 18 extras were given against them.
Gayle appeared to particularly get after anyone bowling from the River End. First David Masters and then Matt Quinn went the distance, and by the time Gayle found time to hit a dot ball, the crowd were in full booing mode.
The Universe Boss’ innings ended with his first half-hearted shot – a checked drive chipped to mid-off, as if in slow motion, thousands in the crowd sighed disappointingly.
Finishing with 49 off 23 he was still cheered off as the hero he is in the West Country.
Peter Trego came in and continued where Gayle left off, also hitting with a strike-rate of 213, with the Somerset 100 brought up with exactly ten overs bowled, leaving just 79 required off the second half of the innings.
The evergreen Mahela Jayawardene got off the mark with a well run two before ‘Dil scooping his next ball for four and being bowled the ball after that, a short stay for the Sri Lankan veteran.
Gregory then came in and finished the game off in convincing fashion, needing just 21 balls to catch up with his skippers 37*.
It was the scorer of the winning runs who was the man of the first innings – Gregory returning figures of 2-25 off his four overs.
Whilst both Overtons were very expensive, going for 45 a piece, Jamie took two wickets and Craig one.
Dan Lawrence, Westley, ten Doeschate and Asher Zaidi all looked good for a time with the bat for Essex, but all found a way of getting out before posting a big personal score.
In hindsight Essex could have done with a pinch hitter such as Wahab Riaz to come in and whack the ball around earlier-he hit a six off his first ball, but only had time for two more deliveries in Essex’ final over.
It was quite clear at the half way mark that Essexs’ 178-7 was below par, and so it proved.
Somerset now climb off the foot of the table on net run-rate, just behind Essex in lower mid-table.