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Babar Azam helps Somerset stun Hampshire

Babar Azam smashed his first Vitality Blast century, and highest career T20 score, to set up a crushing 63-run DLS win for Somerset over Hampshire.

The Pakistan star is the leading run-scorer in the Blast and now has 425 runs in eight innings in the competition this season, 99 more than nearest rival D’Arcy Short.

He already had good memories of the Ageas Bowl, having struck 40 and 51 in ODIs on the ground and added to them with a remarkable 102 not out from just 55 balls, which included seven fours and six maximums.

The victory leaps Somerset above Hampshire into fifth, after consecutive wins, to boost their hopes of a knockout place.

James Vince won the toss and threw the ball to Chris Wood. The seamer grabbed a wicket in his first over for the fourth time this season when Tom Banton was caught at mid-on.

James Hildreth departed soon after when he clattered a cut to point to leave Somerset 37 for two.

After two short rain delays, Babar Azam and Tom Abell ramped up the scoring rate with a series of well-timed cricket shots. Their 50 partnership came up in 34 balls, soon before Babar Azam’s square drive took him to his fourth half-century in the Blast, off 32 balls.

Abell followed the overseas batsman to the milestone, the first time he had reach 50 in T20 cricket, off 30-balls, reaching the landmark with back-to-back reverse sweeps to the boundary.

He, after putting on 113 with Babar Azam, and Eddie Byrom both fell, but that simply spurred Somerset’s overseas batsman on. Having initially preferred placement and skill to power, he turned on the heat with his second fifty coming in just 23 balls.

It was breath-taking batting with his maximums flying over deep midwicket, point, an incredible strike over cover and finally, off the last ball of the innings, a sweet strike over square leg to bring up three figures for just the second time in his career.

That took Somerset to 202 for four, and Hampshire’s reply faltered in the second over as Tom Lammonby’s direct hit ran out Rilee Rossouw.

Wickets carried on falling at regular intervals thanks mainly to outrageous catches, courtesy of Max Waller, Banton and Roelof van der Merwe – somehow bettering each other with each fling at the ball.

With Vince, Aneurin Donald, Liam Dawson, Chris Morris and Sam Northeast all caught, Hampshire’s hopes of victory had all but died.

Rain then prevented further humiliation with eight overs and a ball to spare, with the hosts 63 adrift of the DLS score.

After the match Somerset Captain, Tom Abell said: “It was another really clinical performance, similar to the one against Essex on Wednesday. The game took a similar pattern.

“We’ve batted well in the first innings in both matches and put a lot of pressure on the opposition, and it was backed up in the field with some outstanding catches. We are starting to build some momentum in the competition.

“You can see that Babar is No.1 in the world for a reason. He is playing a different game to the rest of us with the shots he plays and how cleanly he hits the ball. For younger guys it’s amazing to be up the other end and in the changing room.

“Some of the shots he plays just take your breath away. The beauty of Babar is that he plays proper cricket shots all the way through and we can bat around him.

“T20 doesn’t come as naturally to me, so I’m trying to develop my skills and game. Luckily tonight I got a few away and developed a nice partnership with Babar. I was happy to play second fiddle to him though!”

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