Hildreth helps Somerset to victory over Middlesex

James Hildreth upstaged England star Eoin Morgan as Somerset beat Middlesex for the second time in a week to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the NatWest T20 Blast.

Morgan top-scored with 59 from 28 balls for Middlesex as they registered a competitive 162-6 after being put in on a drying Taunton pitch in a game reduced to 16 overs-a-side by rain.

However, Hildreth posted an excellent 63 from 34 balls to set up a thrilling finale and Somerset, requiring 13 to win off the final over, reached their target with one ball to spare thanks to an unbroken sixth wicket stand of 36 between Corey Anderson and Reolof van der Merwe, who held their nerve at the death to deliver a five wicket win.

Victory means Somerset, who have six points from six games, move above Middlesex in the South Group table.

Somerset won the toss and elected to field and made an early breakthrough when Middlesex captain Brendan McCullum, having scratched seven from 12 balls, miss-timed a drive off the bowling of Tim Groenewald and was brilliantly held one-handed by an airborne Peter Trego at mid-off.

It was left to Nick Gubbins to give the innings early impetus, the opener helping himself to a six and a brace of fours en-route to 21 from 14 deliveries. He was undone though by poor communication just as he was looking to cut loose. Sent back by John Simpson, who refused a single, Gubbins was run out by Max Waller’s throw from square leg as the visitors subsided to 32 for two in the sixth over.

Joined by England T20 captain Morgan and eager to make amends, Simpson helped to rescue Middlesex from a sticky start and led them to 62 at the halfway stage. Thereafter, the big-hitting Morgan took centre-stage, the England star plundering 17 runs off one over.

Somerset earned a temporary respite when Simpson, having played second fiddle in a third wicket stand of 66 in five overs, pulled Groenewald to Waller at deep mid-wicket and departed for 26 in the eleventh.

Morgan went to a 20-ball half century with another towering six over mid-wicket off Waller, who then induced James Franklin to hole out to Roelof van der Merwe for seven later in the same over.

Morgan then lifted Gregory over square leg to collect his seventh six. Gregory’s revenge came soon enough though when the Irishman, attempting another maximum, drove straight to Craig Overton at long-on.

Ryan Higgins crashed 20 from five balls, while George Scott finished unbeaten on 17.

Required to score at 10 an over, Somerset benefited from their decision to deploy Gregory as a pinch-hitting opener. Having performed the role with some success at Uxbridge a week earlier, he again did his job, harvesting five boundaries in a 12-ball innings that yielded 25 before Tom Helm held a return catch.

Jim Allenby was clean bowled by Steve Finn for 11, Peter Trego edged a length ball from Tim Southee behind for six and Somerset, at 47 for three at the end of the power-play, were heavily dependent upon the in-form pair of Adam Hose and Hildreth.

Hildreth applied canny improvisation to keep the scoreboard ticking over, before opening his shoulders and clubbing a four and two sixes off the tenth over, sent down by slow left armer Nathan Sowter. Hildreth’s sixth four brought up a 27-ball 50 in the eleventh over, by the end of which the home side needed a further 54 runs from 30 deliveries to win.

Having played a supporting role in a stand of 71 for the fourth wicket, Hose perished in the act of hitting out, caught by Higgins in the deep for 14.

Somerset still required 33 runs from 21 balls when Hildreth’s fine innings came to an end, Simpson taking a catch behind off the bowling of Helm to calm Middlesex nerves.

However, Anderson and van der Merwe refused to panic, punished the bad ball and made 19 not out and 14 not out respectively to see the home side across the finish line.

After his match winning innings James said: “We’ve played well in previous games and started to get a bit of momentum going in all competitions. We’ve also played some good cricket with different people contributing and generally getting a bit of atmosphere about the Club.

“At the halfway stage I think it was about par, given the way that our bowlers started. Then once they got going we saw how easy it was to hit boundaries, so we thought if we bat well and get one or two guys going then we would be in with a pretty good shout. It was a belting wicket and the crowd we amazing.

“My batting is going alright at the moment and before this season I was thinking that any white ball games were a bonus so to get runs again was great.”

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