If a three-wicket victory cannot quite be described as resounding, a typically ebullient Craig Overton innings made sure Somerset won their Royal London Cup match against Surrey in some style with a flurry of boundaries in front of a 5,500-strong home crowd today.
With skipper Jim Allenby playing the anchor role to perfection to secure his first List A half-century for his new county, Somerset chased down their 268 run target with some 20 balls to spare. That their target was below 300, which looked extremely likely at one stage, was thanks to an excellent bowling display which saw the last seven Surrey wickets fall for just 46 runs.
While the result was not enough to sustain Somerset’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition, there were more encouraging performances from Somerset’s youngsters and a welcome sense of momentum ahead of the start of the run-in to the County Championship campaign this weekend.
It’s true that a number of Somerset’s wickets were gifted to the opposition and some of the loose shots on display would not have looked out of place on a blooper reel of mishaps from the first half of this disappointing season. It shows that Somerset’s attempt to cure their tendency of getting out when the going is good is still a work in progress.
However in a day where the upper hand see-sawed between the two sides, Somerset ensured they wrestled back the initiative at key moments and beat a side who until today had been unbeaten in this competition this season.
Matt Maynard kept faith with the young squad he selected for this tournament, Lewis Gregory and Jamie Overton returning in place of Josh Davey and Tim Groenewald for today’s game as part of the bowler rotation policy.
Somerset made immediate inroads as Craig Overton and Lewis Gregory reduced Surrey to 8-2 after four overs. England one-day player Jason Roy was the first to go, bowled by Overton off only the second ball of the innings before Ben Foakes was caught behind by Alex Barrow, pushing forward to Gregory.
A 158-run stand between Steven Davies & Rory Burns (76) in 27 overs then put the visitors back in front. Davies struck a magnificent 111 from just 109 deliveries with 13 fours, while Burns hit 76 from 83 balls, dispatching nine balls to the boundary. Davies’ fluent innings takes his run tally in the group to 475 at an average of just under 80.
The partnership was broken by Craig Overton, who had Burns caught behind off a top-edged pull by Barrow (who put in a tidy performance with the gloves), to make the score 166-3. Davies was joined by keeper Gary Wilson and the pair added a further 55 in 9 overs. With Surrey on 221-3 in the 41st over and two in-form batsmen at the crease, a score in excess of 300 looked firmly on the cards.
Not for the last time in the day though, Somerset seized back the momentum in dramatic style, taking five wickets for just 20 runs in 5.3 overs.
First Gregory had Davies caught by Tom Cooper before Jack Leach had Zafar Ansari adjudged lbw for 4. Overton picked up his third wicket when former Somerset all-rounder James Burke was caught behind for 1.
Tom Abell then ran out Tom Curran before he had scored, before Jamie Overton picked up Curran’s brother Sam, caught behind for 1. Surrey were in trouble at 241-8 and the previous certainty of a big score now looked a distant prospect.
Wilson, though stuck around, well supported by captain Gareth Batty, to reach his half-century and push the Surrey score beyond 250. The Irishman was eventually dismissed off the first ball of the final over, caught behind off Jamie Overton for 59. He had faced 63 balls and hit 5 fours and a six. Five balls later Batty was the last man to go, caught by Leach for 3. Surrey had lost their last seven wickets for 47 runs in 9.3 overs.
The Overton twins shared six wickets, Craig claiming 3-37 and brother Jamie 3-52 to help restrict the visitors to 267 all out.
Surrey’s own pair of brothers, the Currans, were soon in the wickets themselves, accounting for three of the first five Somerset batsmen to fall.
Adam Hose was the first to go. He had got off to a flying start and hit 2 fours and a six in an innings of 18 when he played a loose shot to a ball from Tom Curran and was caught by brother Sam to leave Somerset 46-1 in the 12th over.
Hose and Abell have forged a solid if unspectacular opening partnership in this competition, with Hose usually blazing away at one end and Abell calmly going about his business at the other. In six matches together so far, the pair average 40.5 as an opening partnership, a promising start which gives something for Somerset to build on for the future.
Peter Trego then joined Abell and played an explosive cameo which pushed the momentum – and run rate – firmly in Somerset’s favour. He faced just 24 balls, but scored 41, hitting 5 fours and 2 sixes in the process and sharing in a partnership of 57 with Abell in seven overs. However after depositing a ball from Sam Curran over long-on for six, he got carried away and tried another big shot, only to be bowled by a turning ball.
On a dry surface, Surrey’s bowlers were getting the ball to spin and next over Gareth Batty got one to turn and bowl Abell through the gate for 33. The match was right back in the balance with Somerset at 103-3 in the 20th over.
Just 10 balls later Tom Curran picked up his second wicket when, in an error of judgement, James Hildreth left the ball and was bowled for 6. At 112-4, Somerset had lost three wickets in three overs for nine runs.
Cooper, who has played a couple of big innings in this competition, hit 25 at a run a ball before playing a loose shot at an even looser delivery from Batty. A full toss from the Surrey captain was played back to him by Cooper, the bowler taking a sharp catch low down to his right in his follow-through.
It was another twist in a topsy-turvy day, as Somerset had started to look on top while Cooper and Allenby put on 36 for the fifth wicket.
With the score on a precarious 148-5, Allenby was joined by Barrow, whose place has been under threat after a poor run of form this season. Barrow displayed few signs of pressure, playing a delightful cameo of 35 from 38 balls with 5 boundaries in a 70-run partnership with Allenby for the sixth wicket in 13.3 overs, bringing up the 200 in the process.
The momentum was back in Somerset’s favour, but then, with the score on 218, and a run rate of only 4.8 per over required, Barrow needlessly attempted a slog sweep off Burke, only to get a top edge, which Wilson gratefully accepted.
Somerset required 48 from the last 10 overs, but immediately lost Lewis Gregory, who was unlucky to get a deflection off his boot onto the stumps as he dug out a yorker from Jade Dernbach.
That brought Craig Overton to the crease with Somerset 221-7, knowing they could ill-afford to lose any more wickets. With Jim Allenby playing a captain’s innings at one end, Overton went for his shots. He rode his luck, a couple of top edges falling short of fielders, but he also found the boundary.
The pair knocked off the 47 runs remaining to win in six overs, Overton hitting six boundaries and ending the match with a six as Somerset closed on 273-7 with two balls of the 47th over remaining.
Allenby, who has been under pressure himself over his own form, was undefeated for a fine 53* from 72 balls. He hit just three boundaries, but brought his experience to bear and was content to steadily accumulate and let Overton unleash the fireworks at the other end.
It’s disappointing that after such a win and the emphatic victory in the last game against Yorkshire at Scarborugh, that Somerset’s hopes were extinguished away from Taunton today. Durham’s victory over Derbyshire ensures that Somerset are unable to catch any of the sides above them in their group, even if they win tomorrow’s game away to Leicestershire.
But Allenby says his team can take great positives from today’s result: “While it’s disappointing not to have made the quarter-finals, it is great to be finishing the group with some momentum as we have some hugely important Championship cricket ahead.
“Taking two early wickets prevented Surrey making the most of the opening power play and our bowlers fought back unbelievably well at the end of their innings because I thought they were going to make 320 at one stage.
“Having beaten Yorkshire at Scarborough in our previous game, we have taken down two really good sides, which is a measure of the progress we are making.”
Somerset face Leicestershire in their final Royal London Cup game tomorrow (Tuesday) at Grace Road, starting at 10.30am.
Leicestershire will be looking to make up for bitterly disappointing Royal London campaign, which sees them bottom of the table with only 1 point to their credit. They have added Wayne White to the squad that travelled to Worcester, where they were beaten by eight wickets in their penultimate match today.