The Joys of Winning

I can remember watching the 2010 t20 final at Edgbaston on TV, when Kieron Pollard getting hit in the eye stopped us getting the runs we could’ve, and the feeling of dejection when we lost by the most awful of factors in the amount of wickets lost. After ten consecutive second places finishes, it felt that we would never see the Cidermen win a title.

In fact, even when the news was announced that Hampshire’s star duo of James Vince and Liam Dawson would be missing due to ICC rules as a result of their England call up, I was still sceptical that Somerset would win. I thought the side’s lack of experience might cost us, as nerves would be lost and last year’s winners would capitalise despite their weakened side.

I’m so glad to say I was wrong. Our fantastic team, with 8 out of the 11 being homegrown talent, pulled off a superb performance both with the ball and then with the bat to see us over the line and to break that duck.

For myself, the day began on the 6.33 train from Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton before changing to head to London Euston. The journey may have been long, but the excitement was huge, as I managed to get occasionally strong train wi-fi to tune in to Charlie Taylor’s Radio Somerset preview show. Today was going to be special whatever the case.

Not only was it the first final I had seen Somerset play in live, but it was also the first time I had visited the Home of Cricket, hidden away behind buildings in St John’s Wood but wonderful when you got close enough to see it. It’s always weird in these situations, seeing in real life a building, a stadium that you’ve seen countless times on the screen. But it is a wonderful ground, that superbly combines history and a modern edge together.

Getting into my seat shortly before the first ball was bowled, the nerves returned. The sun was out, the pitch was pretty flat – I was expecting to see the ball fly around the ground as Hampshire took flight and attacked. But when Josh Davey began bowling, these fears were eased. He is such an underrated bowler I feel, and showed that with his spell at the top of the game when he removed both of the openers.

What was crucial, and highly effective by the Somerset bowling attack, was the taking of wickets at regular intervals in combination with exceptional fielding that restricted Hampshire’s scoring.

The fifth wicket partnership was a bit concerning, but Jamie Overton did what he needed to do in forcing an error from Gareth Berg to enable Bartlett to take a fantastic catch running in from the deep. Not only does the Somerset squad have the variety needed, but Abell knows how to utilise it properly. Bringing Jamie Overton on in the middle overs as the fastest bowler to get wickets works, as he showed. And he started a collapse of four wickets in eight overs, with Tom Abell getting involved as well.

That mixture of frustration and nerves returned when Fuller and Crane added 65 for the 9th wicket. Whilst Hampshire’s score was still low, those added runs just continued to allow that pit of the stomach nerves to continue. What if we lose a few early wickets? 245 whilst not an amazing score is certainly not indefensible.

This was made even worse when the ball struck Tom Banton on the pads three times in the first over. Here we go, I thought? Early collapse and it’ll all go Pete Tong. But an incredibly loose spell by Fidel Edwards got us up and running, and by the time the opening partnership had gone over a hundred the nerves had settled somewhat.

And it was the first time I’ve seen Tom Banton play in the flesh. What a major talent he is, and that he is still incredibly young shows how great his potential is. Him and Babar Azam opening in the t20 Blast will be some spectacle.

Despite the short wobble when we lost Banton and Ali quickly, the experienced duo of Pete Trego and James Hildreth meant the game was never in doubt, but my hands were still in front of my face as we closed down on the target.

It was fitting in a lot of ways that the pairing out in the middle when the winning runs were scored was James Hildreth and George Bartlett. Two homegrown players from two different generations of Somerset talent; one with his name already written in the legends book and one hoping to do that in the future; one who has been runner up too many times before, and one who was in his first final.

The exalted Somerset supporters made themselves heard through the entire match, and the pure combination of relief, joy and just sheer happiness released when Hildy scored the winning run will be hard to forget. Fans of all ages were present – for some, this was their first time seeing Somerset in a final; for others, all they’ve known is second place; for some, they can recall that iconic time of the 70s and 80s.

With all the potential there, let’s hope this new Somerset generation build a legacy to match the generations before. They’ve certainly got the potential to do so.