Somerset’s hopes of winning a maiden County Championship may have taken a blow with defeat to Hampshire this week but they can still end the 2018 season with silverware as they head to Edgbaston for their fifth visit to Finals Day.
A dominant campaign thus far has seen them top the South Group and eliminate defending champions Nottinghamshire in the quarter-finals. Just two more wins and they’ll secure their first T20 crown since 2005.
In the third of a series looking at how all four teams got to Finals Day, we pick out five crucial matches which helped Somerset reach Edgbaston.
Demolition Derby – Somerset 194-4 beat Gloucestershire 188-6 by 6 wickets
Somerset began this year’s tournament with a thumping victory over local rivals Gloucestershire at Taunton, a team they had not beaten in this competition since 2015.
Chasing 189 to win, the Somerset batsmen produced a thrilling performance to comfortably chase down the target. Steven Davies hit a 28-ball 60 while Pete Trego’s unbeaten 72 was the perfect example of power hitting. The pair put together a partnership of 90 for the second wicket in just 7.1 overs which took the game away from their opponents.
There were also some lusty blows from James Hildreth and Corey Anderson as Somerset completed victory with 19 balls to spare. A quite wonderful batting effort which was a sign of things to come.
The Turning Point – Somerset 229-6 beat Middlesex 174-6 by 38 runs (D/L method)
The opening day win would be followed by a period of inconsistency by the West Country outfit as heading into their game against Middlesex their record stood at three wins and three defeats. As they slipped to 29-3, that seemed unlikely to improve.
However, Pete Trego struck 60 to get the innings back on track, but as they have been so often throughout the tournament, Somerset’s middle-order was the difference.
When Lewis Gregory came to the crease in the 13th over the score was 138-5, but by the time the captain had been dismissed in the final over, the score was well over 200.
His punishing 62 off 28 deliveries did most of the damage but Corey Anderson also contributed with 41. Gregory also starred with the ball taking 4-28 as Middlesex got nowhere near their target. 38 runs the margin of victory and one which would be the catalyst for seven successive wins to follow.
Middlesex home ✅
Hampshire home ✅
Essex home ✅
Sussex away ✅
— Somerset Cricket 🏏 (@SomersetCCC) August 5, 2018
Memorable Myburgh – Somerset 136-0 beat Essex Eagles 135-9 by 10 wickets
The most convincing victory in that run of wins for Gregory’s men came over Essex who were put to the sword by Johann Myburgh at Taunton.
The Eagles struggled to 135-9 despite initially being 82-2, a total which would not have worried Somerset’s plethora of powerful batsmen. Though it would be just one man who would do all the damage as Myburgh, who has since announced plans to retire at the end of the season, pounded the visitors attack to all parts of the Cooper Associates County Ground.
His 103 meant Somerset chased down Essex’s mediocre target in just the 12th over. His opening partner Tom Banton played second fiddle scoring just 29 runs, more than happy to watch all the carnage from the non-strikers end. On the final day of his cricketing career, Myburgh will hope he can produce something similar at Edgbaston.
Sharks Surprised – Somerset 170-7 beat Sussex Sharks 169-5 by 3 wickets
Somerset only played their semi-final opponents once in the South Group and what a nail-biting game it was. Laurie Evans’ career-best 96 the significant effort in a Sharks score of 169-5.
It was a total that in modern day T20 did not seem a particularly challenging one to chase, but due to Sussex’s international quality bowling attack it was always going to be difficult. Rashid Khan took three wickets as Somerset slipped to 134-7.
Though this is a Somerset outfit with so many match winners, and on this occasion it was Roelof van der Merwe who provided the game changing spark. His innings of 34 from 19 deliveries took his team to an improbable victory in the final over of the match.
This triumph provides Somerset fans with two reasons to be optimistic come Saturday. First they know their team are capable of beating this strong Sussex outfit but also they have the players in the side with the temperament and skills to win close contests such as this.
— Somerset Cricket 🏏 (@SomersetCCC) August 27, 2018
Champions Eliminated – Somerset 209-5 beat Nottinghamshire Outlaws 190 all out by 19 runs
It was probably unfair that, having topped the South Group, Somerset had to face defending champions Nottinghamshire in the quarter-finals with the Outlaws looking like they were just starting to peak after an indifferent start to the tournament.
However this Somerset team was by now a well-oiled machine, every player knowing exactly what their role was but, more importantly, being able to execute it.
James Hildreth posted another half-century, Tom Abell anchored the middle order and Lewis Gregory was at his explosive best again, his 60 off 24 balls the difference between the sides. A total of 209-5 looked an excellent one compared to anything else which had been posted in the other three quarter-finals, and despite Notts making a decent fist of their run chase they fell from 133-2 to 190 all out.
Jamie Overton took the headlines with five wickets but this victory a real team effort with so many contributions across the board.
Somerset will be seen by many as favourites at Edgbaston, and rightly so. They have been the best team in the tournament so far but that will count for little if they cannot complete the job on Saturday.