Babar Azam can't prevent last gasp defeat

Babar Azam lit up the Cooper Associates County Ground tonight, but it wasn’t quite enough to prevent Somerset falling to a last gasp defeat.

Liam Dawson’s unbeaten 47 guided Hampshire to an improbable four-wicket Vitality Blast victory with three balls to spare in the first T20 match under the new floodlights.

Somerset looked favourites for a large proportion of the evening after Babar Azam marked his home debut with an extraordinary innings of 95 from 61 balls, including nine fours and three sixes, in a total of 172 for three after losing the toss.

A sold-out crowd of 7,400 saw Hampshire struggle to 96 for four after 14 overs before a late onslaught from Dawson and James Fuller, who hit three sixes in scoring 28 off 12 balls, pulled off an unlikely victory.

After three overs of their innings, the hosts had scored ten for the loss of Tom Banton, caught at mid-off trying loft Chris Wood back over his head.

The power-play ended with the Somerset on 30 for one. However, Babar Azam began to keep pace with partner Peter Trego, but the halfway point of the innings was reached with the hosts on 65 for one.

That became 72 for two when Trego’s middle stump was knocked back by Wood in the 11th over with his score on 35. Babar Azam reached his half-century from 40 balls and Somerset fans saw why he is regarded among the best young batsmen in the world.

The 15th over saw him launch Chris Morris for two big sixes, while James Hildreth also struck a maximum as the over cost 22.

Hildreth reverse beautifully swept a six off Dawson in contributing a breezy 28 before being yorked by Morris, who bowled the 18th over for just four runs.

Somerset’s Pakistan batsman then produced an extraordinary back-foot shot to hit Abbott for six over wide long-off. Now he was in full flow and helped Somerset add 24 from the last two overs before leaving the arena to a standing ovation.

Hampshire were still in the game, but lost three wickets in the power-play, two of them to Jerome Taylor. The West Indian seamer had Rilee Rossoux caught by the diving Max Waller at mid-off and Sam Northeast taken at short mid-wicket in bowling his first two overs for seven runs.

The key wicket of James Vince was sandwiched in between, caught at short cover for only a single off Craig Overton. At 42 for three after seven overs the required run-rate had risen to more than ten.

Donald hit a six and six fours before being caught at mid-off from the final ball of the 13th over, sent down by Lewis Gregory. Morris hit Overton for two sixes in the 15th over, but Somerset looked to be on top. Howevr, the 17th over, bowled by Taylor, yielded 24 runs.

Suddenly Hampshire looked favourites needing 18 from two overs.

Fuller was caught behind for 28 off the first ball of the 19th, bowled by Gregory, but Taylor had only eight runs to play with when sending down the last and a Lewis McManus six clinched an unlikely win.

After the match Somerset Head Coach, Jason Kerr said: “It was not a case of things going wrong. That’s T20 cricket. One over and one batsman can take games away from you.

“We know what James Fuller is capable of and he struck the ball brilliantly. It was a really good wicket and we can’t be 30 for one at the end of the power-play.

“I’m not going to stand here and criticise individual mistakes from players who have been brilliant for us this season. There were more positives to come out of the game than negatives for me.

“Babar Azam batted brilliantly for us tonight and that bodes well for the future for us in this competition.”

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Next MatchSomerset V Surrey

03/07/2022 18:30 - The Cooper Associates County Ground