Somerset secure impressive win at Chelmsford!

Babar Azam pumped his third fifty of the Vitality Blast as Somerset steamed back to form with a 114 run victory over Essex Eagles at the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.

After scores which have included 95 not out, 83 and 43, the Pakistan superstar collected 56, his first half-century away from Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton.

Azam was accompanied with full-blooded contributions from Tom Banton, skipper Tom Abell and in form hitter Eddie Byrom, 39, 54 and 44 respectively, as Somerset crashed their joint-sixth highest T20 total of 225 for six.

In reply, Roelof van der Merwe snatched three wickets in an over to stunt the Eagles, on his way to his maiden format five-wicket haul, as they were eventually skittled for 111.

The result sees Somerset overtake Essex into sixth in the South Group of the Blast.

Somerset won the toss and let Banton and Azam loose on Essex’s bowling attack – with the former destroying Aaron Beard’s first over by taking 22 runs, including a trademarked reverse flick, off it.

The formidable opening pair put on 51 for the first wicket in 26 balls before Ravi Bopara entered the match after two games left in the dressing room.

Firstly, he found Banton scooping to fine leg before James Hildreth was caught by a howitzer of a snaffle by Paul Walter at mid-wicket.

The two wickets slowed the run-rate down for around seven overs before Tom Abell scooped a six and 24 was taken off a Simon Harmer over.

Azam was quickly, but quietly, going about his business from the other end as he continued his impeccable Blast form with a 37-ball fifty, to go alongside scores of 95 not out, 83 and 43.

But the Pakistan superstar and Abell departed in bang-bang style following a 79-run stand, the former caught off Bopara – the only Essex bowler to come out the innings with creditable figures, three for 18.

With four overs to go, Somerset were on 156 for four and floundering in their bid to find the par 200, but Eddie Byrom saw Chelmsford’s small boundaries and picked spots in the parameter to blitz.

Having been dropped on 10, the Zimbabwean craned three maximums off a Mohammad Amir over, which went for 18, before plonking Adam Zampa for 16 in three balls before picking out long-off.

Van der Merwe departed but Craig Overton fired a further two sixes to take the visitors to 225 for six – the joint-fourth T20 score on the ground – after 96 had been mullered in the final 24 balls.

In reply, Essex openers Cameron Delport and Tom Westley kept at around the rate for four overs before both fell in consecutive – caught at cover and mid-on respectively.

After a limp start, Adam Wheater and Dan Lawrence compared six-hitting skills before but fell to catches at mid-wicket.

Ryan ten Doeschate, Bopara and Walter all departed in a single van der Merwe over, he ended with career-best figures of five for 32.

Harmer, Beard and Amir also departed in tame style as Essex lost eight wickets in 31 balls fall well short of the required runs.

Afterwards, 5 wicket hero Reolof van der Merwe said: “The tone we set with the bat straight up front they were always defending from there. We kicked on nicely with the bat, which we hadn’t done in the past, and took wickets at crucial times.

“I didn’t think the wicket was that good. 190 would have been a decent game but 230 makes them go out and play more shots than they needed to.

“I think Abell gets branded as someone who can’t play the T20 game but he has done it twice in a row now with good cricket shots.

“Him and Babar played conservative cricket with good strike-rates, so we can take something from their batting.

“I am happy with those bowling figures, although I would have given three wickets away to go at eights. It was one of those nights where you take a few wickets but go for a few runs.

“We know we now need to go on a four or five winning run now.”

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09/07/2022 19:00 - The Cooper Associates County Ground