Two surprising selections in the batting line-up helped Somerset post a respectable total, but it was not enough as Essex secured to a comfortable opening victory.
James Hildreth opened for the first time in the Blast and scored 39 off 18 balls before Ben Green rebuilt from seven and then accelerated at the end to score 43*.
But the top score of the night; 53 from New Zealander Jimmy Neesham made sure even the Eagles’ very long tail could clinch the victory by three wickets with seven balls to spare.
Essex skipper Simon Harmer won the toss and opted to bowl. Hildreth was given a go at opening whilst his old mate Pete Trego batted three in a star studded Notts’ Outlaws batting line-up live on Sky.
An interesting decision from Harmer to open with Aron Nijjar from the shorter River End saw Tom Banton and Hildreth take 16 off the first.
The tone was set and Somerset went on to reach 50 off just 2.5 overs!
Hildreth stroked four boundaries with classic cricket strokes through the off side then shimmied down to Jack Plom & with aplomb deposited him for six into the Ian Botham Stand, then next ball an even bigger six over the River Stand into the River Tone. A massive 33 came off Plom’s first over.
But after scoring 62 off 3.4 overs Somerset lost three wickets in four balls and were suddenly 63-3.
Hildreth was caught at deep square off the extra pace of Sam Cook, then Banton went one legitimate ball later.
Cricket can change pretty quickly! Jamie Porter and Cook brought some respectability back in the fourth and fifth overs of the powerplay, Porter’s second over only going for one.
It was 57-0 off the first three overs then 11 off the second three overs of the powerplay restrictions. Mid-off Paul Walter dropped Eddie Byrom on 18 when 89-4 onlast ball of the ninth.
Byrom & skipper Lewis Gregory attempted a rebuild but the former top edged a pull off Cook, caught by Neesham (who he had hit into the car park last over) for 28. At 104-4, a surprise inclusion in the XI Green had 8.4 overs to bat.
Gregory and then Marchant De Lange gave him adequate support as the latter stages saw Green smite two sixes into the River Stand.
Somerset’s opening T20 bowler was Max Waller as usual, his first over going for 14 would normally seem a lot but was two less than Essex’s first. The37-year-old surprise pick Jack Brooks then got key man Tom Westley and went for just one run off his first ever white-ball over for Somerset.
Brooks was selected having bowled well at Taunton Vale for the ‘Seconds’ earlier this week.
Josh Davey had Adam Wheater caught well by Tom Abell at cover first ball and Essex were 15-2 off 2.1.
Davey also got Michael Pepper, for 18, making it 51-3 at the end of the powerplay.
TheTall Paul Walter and former skipper Ryan Ten Doeschate rebuilt similarly to Gregory and Byrom, making the first 50 partnership since Hildreth and Banton’s 2.5 overs into the first innings.
Green got away with dropping Ten Doeschate at deep mid wicket when on 23, as next over De Lange had him caught behind.
Neesham had a scratchy start but then changed his bat, received physio and he was away, taking Waller for 19 off the 15th and keeping the Eagles flying.
Harmer & Neesham then played a crucial Marchant De Lange over very well indeed & Gregory made a ballsy call to bowl van der Merwe when they needed 32 off four. These two overs were the turning point and for the first time in the entire match Essex were on top and thereafter should have cruised to victory.
De Lange took two in two balls, Harmer and Neesham, to make it interesting, but Plom smoked a six into the now not alcohol-free family stand to clinch the victory by three wickets with seven balls to spare.