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Defeat for Somerset in Vitality Blast derby

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An impressive innings of 82 from Will Smeed couldn’t prevent Somerset from a Vitality Blast defeat at the hands of local rivals Gloucestershire at the Cooper Associates County Ground.

Benny Howell was the stand out performer for the visitors as he announced his return to action after more than a year on the injured-list by blasting an unbeaten 49 off 18 balls in the 11-run victory.

Gloucestershire posted 203 for six after losing the toss, Howell and Jack Taylor (31 not out) cutting loose after Ian Cockbain’s 50 from 27 balls had provided early momentum.

Max Waller was the pick of the Somerset bowlers, claiming three for 18.

In reply, Somerset made 192 for eight. 18-year-old Smeed hitting a valiant 82 on only his second Vitality Blast appearance and Lewis Gregory contributing 38.

Chris Dent got the Gloucestershire innings off to a strong start in glorious sunshine with two fours and a six off the second over, bowled by Lewis Gregory, before falling for 16.

Cockbain and Miles Hammond then took the total to 53 for one at the end of the six-over power play.

Hammond reverse swept Roelof van der Merwe for six before holing out to deep cover for 27 to become Waller’s first victim.

The ninth over cost Somerset 30 runs. It was begun by Tom Abell, who had to be removed from the attack after bowling successive no-balled full-tosses and ended by Ollie Sale.

Gloucestershire were 109 for three at the halfway point in their innings, Ryan Higgins having departed lbw to van der Merwe.

Waller then removed Cockbain and James Bracey in quick succession to catches by Gregory at mid-wicket and cover as Somerset applied a brake to the scoring rate.

When George Scott fell to van der Merwe, Gloucestershire were 135 for six and in danger of squandering their start.

However, Howell came in to join skipper Taylor in a stand of 68 that occupied just 5.1 overs. Making up for lost time after his long spell battling hamstring and calf problems, Howell hit five sixes and three fours.

Steve Davies and Babar Azam fell in the first five overs of the Somerset  reply, Ryan Higgins and David Payne claiming the wickets. After six overs the hosts were 35 for two.

Dent then ran out first Tom Abell and then George Bartlett, attempting second runs. All the while Academy product Smeed was quietly going about his business.

Smeed’s second six, off Tom Smith, took him to a hugely impressive maiden Somerset half-century, from 36 balls, with six fours as he and Gregory added 65 in 6.2 overs.

When Gregory was stumped giving Howell the charge it looked all over. Tom Lammonby had other ideas and hit two sixes and a four in the 17th over, bowled by Higgins.

Smeed followed suit with successive sixes off Howell and another off Higgins before being caught at long-on in the penultimate over. Lammonby followed next ball and Gloucestershire claimed the bragging rights and the important two points.

After the match Will Smeed said: “I actually bought a season ticket to watch the team play T20 cricket this summer, so to be out there with them is unreal.

“I’ve been with the county since the age of eight, so I’m Somerset through and through. That made today even more special, but I was gutted not to be able to get the team across the line.

“I’m doing all I can to learn from the experienced players in the dressing room. White-ball cricket is probably my forte at the moment, but I’m working hard on my red-ball game too.”

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