Despite a valiant 79 from in-form Jim Allenby, Somerset lost to Sussex by five runs at Taunton in their opening NatWest t20 Blast match of the season. Max Waller had a chance to tie it off the last ball with a six but another collapse, of 5 wickets for 18 runs in the middle of Somerset’s chase, was ultimately what cost them the game.
With Chris Gayle’s arrival delayed by Royal Challengers Bangalore’s IPL progress, Abdur Rehman joined new signing Sohail Tanvir as the overseas players in a Somerset side that seemed curiously bowler-heavy. Sussex, meanwhile, had plenty of star quality in Luke Wright, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills and ex-Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene.
Wright won the toss in overcast, cool conditions and chose to bat first. His opening partner Chris Nash struck the first ball of the match for four through cover off Alfonso Thomas, but two balls later he was adjudged lbw.
Jayawardene also hit a four first ball, before Sohail Tanvir conceded just three from his first over in Somerset colours. Jamie Overton, on t20 debut, was smashed for 18 from his first over, and Sussex looked strong on 62 for 1 after the powerplay.
After Abdur Rehman saw his first ball carted over midwicket by Jayawardene, Somerset pulled Sussex back a little with the Sri Lankan falling for 36 (23 balls, 4×4, 2×6) to an excellent low diving catch from Tom Cooper off Allenby. Max Waller was outstanding in the middle overs, finishing with figures of 4-0-20-0 without conceding a single boundary.
Overton returned in the 13th over, and put his poor start behind him to claim two wickets in two balls. Lewis Gregory took a stunning diving catch to get rid of Wright for 49 (35 balls, 4×4, 2×6), before Craig Cachopa (16) fell to an Allenby catch. Sussex were now 110 for 4 with Somerset right back in the game.
But Harry Finch and Chris Jordan regrouped before taking Thomas’s last over for 13, and the last over of the innings, from Tanvir, for 12. The Pakistan bowler did take his first wicket for Somerset – Jordan bowled for 37 – in that over, and finished with credible figures of 4-0-29-1. Harry Finch was run out last ball of the innings for 25 by Waller.
Sussex’s score of 175 for 6 was helped by a few pieces of shoddy Somerset fielding, including a dropped catch from Thomas and four overthrows off Tanvir. Even so, both teams would have believed they were in with a chance going into the second innings.
Somerset started well enough, with Marcus Trescothick hitting successive fours in the first over off Jordan. As a sign of things to come, Allenby hit his fifth ball for six over square leg, but Trescothick soon miss hit Tymal Mills to Wright at mid-off for 17.
Peter Trego joined Allenby at the crease and they entertained the large crowd in a partnership of 46. Allenby hit Ollie Robinson for three fours in four balls, and Trego struck sixes off Mike Yardy and Will Beer. But he holed out to Jordan for 26 (16 balls, 2×4, 2×6) off Yardy, prompting an all-too-familiar Somerset batting collapse.
Yardy got rid of James Hildreth too for 1. Tom Cooper’s horror run continued when he was lbw to Beer for 2. The same bowler had Tanvir (1) caught by Piolet, then took a sharp catch off his own bowling to get Gregory (1) and leave Somerset 96 for 6. Yardy and Beer had combined figures of 8-0-48-5, demonstrating a familiar problem against spin in t20s for Somerset.
Allenby didn’t give up, however, and found a willing partner in Rehman. The pair put on an enterprising 56 from 29 balls, but they were never in full control of the required run rate which hovered around the 13 mark for the last six overs or so.
Rehman was dismissed off the final ball of the penultimate over for 24, with the batsmen wisely refraining from crossing to get Allenby on strike for the final over.
But, needing 24, Allenby was off strike immediately with a single. Mills bowled a no-ball next up to new batsman Overton, which he edged for four, to give Somerset fans hope, before a single, a two, then a run out – Allenby for 79 (56 balls, 7×4, 3×6) trying to get back on strike.
It wasn’t quite over yet, though. Waller edged his first ball thickly for six, leaving Somerset needing six from the last ball to tie. It wasn’t to be, however, with the legspinner only able to squirt away a single.
Jim Allenby was in no doubt as to the cause of the loss, saying afterwards that “We lost too many wickets in the middle. We got off to a great start, but lost wickets every over or so and against an experienced Sussex side you just can’t do that.”
On his own innings he said “It’s always nice to get off to a good start at a new club. This is a tournament I enjoy and as a club we have some outstanding players so we expect to play well. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough today.”
He went on “It probably wasn’t as close as five runs but it doesn’t damage our net run rate too much which might well count when it comes down to it.
“We dragged it back and showed a bit of fight at the end but we probably had a little too much to do.”
Somerset are next in t20 action at Chelmsford next Friday, when they take on Essex in what should be Chris Gayle’s much-anticipated debut for the cider county.