Somerset worthy winners by 14 runs after a thrilling Final.
Although failing to reach 150 in either match, Somerset emerged as worthy Vitality Blast champions for 2023, having dominated the group stages and carried their form through to the knock-out stages. They kept their cool against Essex who, to be honest, were guilty of some fairly brainless batting. The catch from Tom Kohler-Cadmore that ended the match was a fitting moment of brilliance and drama. Matt Henry with 4-24 and Ish Sodhi with 3-22 brought their combined Kiwi bowling skills to the Somerset cause; and Lewis Gregory captained them with calm authority.
After the match, Kohler-Cadmore said that he saw the catch all the way – it was one that either stuck or it didn’t. He praised captain Gregory and highlighted how everyone in the team knew their role.
At the start, not surprisingly, Essex, having won the toss, asked Somerset to bat. They were obviously aware of the risk of more rain causing an overs reduction.
Having dismissed Somerset for 145, Essex benefited from a little Adam Rossington cameo of 19 off nine balls before he was caught by Kasey Aldridge at cover; a real hand stinger. With an over from Overton intervening, Henry made it two wickets in two deliveries when he bowled Michael Pepper with a ball that hit the top of off stump. Then came the key wicket of Dan Lawrence, plumb lbw to Henry who at that stage had taken 3-17 off two overs of frenetic batting by Essex.
In Overton’s next over, Robin Das mis-hit to mid-on to leave Essex struggling at 44-4. Both he and Henry beat the bat in the next couple of overs as Essex sought to re-group. After Overton had bowled out his four overs for 30 runs, Lewis Gregory had Matt Critchley lbw to leave Essex struggling at 55-5 after eight overs.
Paul Walter and Daniel Sams brought a calmer approach to batting, though Walter might have been caught on the boundary by Sodhi had he not slipped and lost sight of the ball.
Just as certain people in the press box were commenting on how sensibly the two Essex batters were going about their task, Walter took an ugly swipe at a straight delivery from Sodhi and was bowled for 26.
Sams and Simon Harmer added 26 before the Essex captain edged Gregory and Tom Banton took an excellent catch – 106-7 which became 107-8 when Shane Snater was comprehensively bowled by Sodhi.
It seemed all rested on Sams, even more so when Sodhi bowled Aaron Beard with a full length ball. 29 off 16 balls seemed a distant target, less so when Sams hit both Kohli and Henry for sixes. A slash outside off stump might have gone for another boundary but Tom Kohler-Cadmore took a full length dive and miraculously caught the ball – and the Vitality Blast title – in his left hand.
At the start of the match, after a slight rain delay that didn’t reduce the overs, Dan Lawrence dropped Tom Banton first ball at backward point off Daniel Sams. After that, Somerset made steady progress against some tight bowling. Tom Kohler-Cadmore hooked Sam Cook for six but, in the next over, Shane Snater saw Banton reverse sweep him gently into the hands of Robin Das.
Worse was to follow when Kohler-Cadmore mis-judged the length of a straight ball from Matt Critchley and was bowled for 19 – 54-3 in the eighth over. Then, with boundaries not forthcoming, Tom Abell advanced down the pitch to Paul Walter and skied to deep mid-on.
Then came a moment of controversy when Lewis Gregory, facing his first delivery, played a ball from Matt Critchley back down the pitch and the bowler, diving forward, looked as if he had taken the catch. After many replays, the third umpire adjudged that the ball had touched the ground moments before Critchley’s fingers came under the ball.
Sean Dickson who had played so well in the semi-final, hit Critchley for consecutive fours and had a useful partnership with the reprieved Gregory. They added 45 off 28 balls before Gregory skied and was caught and bowled by Snater.
Ben Green made no impact, caught off a skier by Robin Das off Walter; and Craig Overton was brilliantly run out by a direct hit by Aaron Beard to leave Somerset wobbling at 127-7. When Sean Dickson, after reaching his fifty, was caught by a leaping Adam Rossington and Matt Henry was caught by Snater at deep mid on, Somerset were left to scramble to 145 – all out thanks to a last ball run-out. Snater’s 3-13 and Walter’s 3-29 took the bowling honours.
At that point, Essex would have fancied their chances. It was not to be!