Last year Somerset played Hampshire at Taunton in their last T20 Blast fixture of the season. Their win, against the South Group leaders at the time, was not enough for the Cidermen to qualify, being eliminated on run-rate before the knockout stages.
Despite few squad personnel changes from last summer, it is Somerset who sit above the Rose Bowl side in the South Group having both played seven fixtures this term.
On paper, Hampshire look a very strong side, especially with the strong kolpak-players Kyle Abbot, Fidel Edwards and Rilee Rossouw assisting overseas player Colin Munro and experienced England internationals James Vince and Liam Dawson.
But Somerset are third with eight points, four points above Hampshire in seventh. Hampshire are only spared from bottom spot due to Essex’s slightly inferior run-rate, the Eagles also have a game in hand over James Vince’s side.
Hampshire were most recently abandoned at Hove without a ball being bowled last Sunday. Somerset meanwhile put on a dazzling display in front of the Sky cameras, beating Eoin Morgan’s Middlesex for the second time in 10 days. Skipper Lewis Gregory impressed massively with both bat and ball, whilst 60 from Pete Trego and economical bowling from leggie Max Waller were possibly all eclipsed by Jamie Overton’s sensational boundary-flick-back catch to dismiss Paul Stirling.
This leads the two sides entering this fixture with very different amounts of confidence. Hampshire need to start winning fast if they are to get to finals day like last season whilst Somerset will be happy to continue their recent form of winning three T20s on the trot.
On current form it has to be the captain fantastic Lewis Gregory who can seem to do no wrong for Somerset with bat or ball of late. Somerset’s top order has not fired in T20 as much as last season yet, but the westcountry side still sit much higher in the South Group table. This is largely thanks to Gregory, often in partnerships with Anderson and even van der Merwe and the Overton twins, often digging their batsmen out of a hole, continuing to clear the ropes right down to the final overs with few wickets left in hand.
How Somerset play Mujeeb Ur Rahman will be interesting. The 17-year-old mystery spinner came to this country with a glowing reputation from his 2018 IPL performances, but has yet to hit the ground running in South England yet. Pete Trego and Lewis Gregory particularly targeted Ashton Agar last Sunday, depositing him in the stands and even over the Marcus Trescothick stand into the River Tone, expect Rahman to not make things quite so easy for the batsmen this evening.
Another parallel to this same fixture at the end of last season is that left-arm-spinner Jacob Lintott has been brought into the squad. I can speak from personal experience, having played village cricket multiple times with Lintott a few years ago, he is a very destructive batsman if he is given the chance down the order as well. However, he may not necessarily play, Dawson and Rahman are clearly better spinners, it would be a shock for Hampshire to go with three front-line spin-bowlers.
Both Liam Dawson and Sam Northeast have notched personal record T20 bowling and batting performances at Taunton, perhaps more surprising on the bowling front with Taunton reputationally small with short boundaries all round, but it generally does take spin well.
Hampshire squad: Colin Munro, James Vince ©, Rilee Rossouw, Sam Northeast, Tom Alsop, Joe Weatherley, Ryan Stevenson, Chris Wood, Jake Lintott, Lewis McManus (wk), Liam Dawson, Kyle Abbot, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fidel Edwards, Gareth Berg
Interestingly Somerset add Tom Banton to their squad for this match, the young wicket-keeper batsman has been in good form recently, encapsulated by him scoring a century against South Africa as captain of England under-19s. Craig Overton was rested last time out, but such was the impressive, convincing win over Middlesex it would be surprising if any changes are made; `you don’t change a winning side,’ keeping momentum is imperative and all that.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell, Corey Anderson, Tom Banton, Josh Davey, Steve Davies (wk), Lewis Gregory (c), James Hildreth, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Jerome Taylor, Peter Trego, Roelof van der Merwe, Max Waller.
Hampshire: ALTWL (T=Tie)
Weather and Conditions
After a brief period of rain and slightly cooler weather, the hot weather is meant to return today, leading up to another very warm weekend – great news for batsmen everywhere!
Head groundsman Simon Lee will likely have made the Taunton wicket still a dream to bat on, so well over 200 could again be on the cards at the Cooper Associates County Ground this evening.
Date: 1st August 2018
Ground: Cooper Associates County Ground
Odds (SkyBet): Somerset 4/5, Hampshire 1/1