Like the retirement of a much-loved friend and colleague, the last Royal London One Day Cup Final to be held at Lord’s was more an occasion for recalling past glories than enjoying the present. In truth, it was a low-key affair, enjoyed by Somerset supporters but unlikely to live long in the memory.
Hampshire, weakened by pre-World Cup call ups, struggled to compete with a talented full-strength Somerset team who are taking home their first trophy since 2005.
Only some dazzling stroke play by Somerset’s 20-year-old keeper-batsman Tom Banton stirred the emotions.
The Hampshire batsmen got themselves in and then made careless mistakes. Their total of 244 never looked to be enough; and so it proved.
Warm sunshine and a gentle breeze made for ideal conditions for both playing and watching. Those who remember the days of sell-out Lord’s Finals will have seen the crowd size as modest. But with India playing across the river and England at the Aegeas Bowl, an attendance of 15,746 was about what could be expected.
Hampshire were weakened by the loss of three out of their four leading run-scorers in the competition – captain James Vince, Aiden Markram and Liam Dawson – and, in Dawson and Markram, their two most economical bowlers.
Hampshire won the toss and decided to bat on what looked to be a decent pitch. In the event, some movement off the seam did give early encouragement to the bowlers.
Aneurin Donald had a dismal time with Glamorgan last year and has achieved only limited success for Hampshire in the Royal London; and he soon hit a half volley from Josh Davey straight to cover.
With our usual keen eye for history, Deep Extra Covercan reveal that this was the first time a Scotsman (Davey, born in Aberdeen) had combined with a South African (Rilee Rossouw from Johannesburg) to dismiss a Welshman (Donald from Swansea), at Lord’s on a Saturday in May.
Joe Weatherley was playing his first Royal London game of the season. Useful performer though he is, he is not James Vince; and he and Tom Alsop struggled to assert themselves.
Davey induced an edge from Alsop, which James Hildreth at slip failed to scoop up, but next ball the same fielder held a more straightforward edge.
Weatherley soldiered on, leading a slightly charmed life, and raised the Hampshire 50 in the 13thover. Then Lewis Gregory bowled him, bringing one back. Weatherley’s 12 had taken up 25 balls.
Rossouw, averaging over 50 in the tournament so far, was back where he scored a match-winning hundred in last year’s final. He started with a lovely extra cover drive for four off Gregory, then pulled over wide mid-on and off-drove for two more fours in the same over.
A key point in the match came when Rossouw hit Jamie Overton through the covers for four and then tried to repeat the shot and played on. He had scored 28 off just 17 balls and Hampshire were 96-4 in the 20thover.
Sam Northeast and Gareth Berg dug in. Northeast seldom looked in trouble, but his timing and placement were slightly out of kilter so there were few memorable strokes.
Berg played a good inside-out extra cover drive off Roelof Van der Merwe for four before Overton’s extra pace did for him. He lost control of a pull shot and skied to backward square leg. He was caught by George Bartlett for 27 to leave Hampshire struggling at 145-5.
Berg and Northeast had added 49 but it had taken them 14 overs.
Northeast battled on. A fierce extra-cover drive off Tom Abell was easily the shot of his innings, but he then missed a wild drive and was bowled by the same bowler. His 56 had come off 89 balls with just four boundaries.
Abell’s emergence as a useful fast-medium bowler is a valuable addition to the Somerset attack; and fortunately he has the confidence to put himself on to bowl.
Overton’s pace accounted for Chris Wood, who holed out to Bartlett at long leg for nought. At 165-7, Hampshire were in real trouble.
James Fuller added a touch of aggression to the batting, but only just survived a direct hit when he ran a quick single to mid-on. Then, attempting an inside-out drive to Abell, Kyle Abbott was bowled. At 180-8 in 41stover Hampshire were in danger of failing to bat out their overs.
The fall of Abbott did create the almost biblical clash of Crane against Abell.
Fuller and Mason Crane did their best to salvage the Hampshire innings with some hearty blows. They added 64 off the last 9.1 overs to take Hampshire to 244-8, a score that, back in the early days of 50 over finals, would have been regarded as a better than par score.
Today, in 2019, it looked inadequate.
For Somerset, Overton took the bowling honours with aggressive bowling that produced 3-48; but Davey’s 2-28 and Abell’s 2-19 were important efforts.
At the start of Somerset’s reply, young Tom Banton swung Fidel Edwards for six over square leg and then hit the next delivery sweetly to mid-wicket for four. Seen by some as the new Jos Buttler, he timed the ball well and confidently outscored an equally assured Azhar Ali.
The Somerset openers brought up the fifty in the seventh over. When Mason Crane came on with his leg spin, Banton slog swept him to bring up his own fifty out of 91. He then reverse swept Crane, drove him backward of point and swept him for two more fours, showing his full range of shots.
After a confident innings, Banton got an inside edge when Fidel Edwards came back. His 69 came off 67 balls with nine fours and one six.
Fidel Edwards generated some 90 mph pace gainst Peter Trego and Azhar Ali and got his reward when the latter miscued and lobbed a catch to Rossouw on the leg side. His 45 was a valuable contribution.
The Somerset 150 came up in the 28thover. The two near-veterans (Trego aged 37 and Hildreth 34) steered Somerset towards the trophy.
Trego was dropped at backward point on 16 from a fierce square cut off Kyle Abbott, and then top-edged James Fuller to Wood who took a good low catch running forwards at long leg.
Abell gave useful support to Hildreth but then mis-cued Edwards, by far and away Hampshire’s most threatening bowler, to be caught for 14.
This gave Hampshire just the slightest glimmer of hope. But, at 203-4, only 42 more were needed.
Sure enough, Hildreth proceeded to an untroubled fifty with an on-driven four off Crane whose line and length frequently wavered. Successive fours and a single by Hildreth off Edwards then took Somerset to their target with six and a half overs to spare.
For his vital three wickets, Jamie Overton was deservedly made player of the match, though Banton and Hildreth must have run him close.
Hampshire will no doubt take consolation from having reached two consecutive Royal London finals; but the cider will be flowing in Somerset this weekend as the players and fans celebrate a well earned trophy.