Rilee inspires Somerset to big win over Essex
Rilee Rossouw surged to the top of the Vitality Blast run-scoring charts as Somerset stayed on course for a home knockout tie, thrashing Essex by eight wickets at Chelmsford.
Rossouw plundered 85 not out with seven sixes and five fours to move ahead of Northamptonshire’s Chris Lynn in the standings as the visitors made light work of chasing down 189 to win, though the Eagles were left to rue giving him a life, spilling a regulation chance when the match-winner had made just four. Tom Abell (62 not out) provided great support reaching his own half century in 39 balls.
All this came after Michael Pepper (86 not out) and Paul Walter (58) were the mainstays of the host’s tally of 188 for five, Jack Brooks the pick of the Somerset attack with two for 23.
On the same pitch which yielded 477 runs in Friday’s encounter with Sussex, the hosts initially struggled for fluency after being put in.
Adam Rossington gloved one from Peter Siddle through to Tom Banton and Feroze Khushi flowered briefly before lofting Ben Green to mid-wicket.
Pepper spiced things up, sweeping Roelof Van Der Merwe over backward square for six, but when the in-form Matt Critchley missed out the Eagles were 78 for three.
It was Walter who changed the complexion of the innings, clearing his front leg and striking the ball cleanly to all parts, one of his five sixes threatening the residents of flats on the old hospital site.
The all-rounder raced to 50 in 26 balls and the stand reached 87 from 47 before he holed out in the deep, one of two wickets in as many balls for Brooks.
Pepper though, whose 50 came in 31 balls, dinked Siddle for six over third man as 20 came from the final over.
Even so, 188 looked light, all the more so when Will Smeed plundered three sixes from the opening over, but having raced to 22 he edged Daniel Sams through to Rossington.
Banton briefly picked up the baton, only for Pepper to send him on his way courtesy of a stunning catch, running in from the fence and diving full length to cling on inches above the turf.
If that was stunning, Sams dropped a sitter by comparison to reprieve Rossouw later in the same Ben Allison over.
The groans from a big crowd suggested it was a pivotal moment and Rossouw reinforced the view by lofting the luckless Allison for successive sixes in his next over, before plundering another maximum off spinner Simon Harmer.
Two more mighty blows off Aron Nijjar took him to 50 off 19 balls with five sixes and three fours, and with Tom Abell providing wristy elegance from the other end the 100-stand took just 52 balls as the Cider-men coasted home.
At the close of play, Somerset skipper Tom Abell said: “Rilee is just a freak! He takes so much pressure off everyone. I love him, he’s a legend.
“It was a massive moment when he was dropped, but in T20 you need things to go your way sometimes and we said out in the middle ‘let’s make them pay.’ Games can swing on these small moments and that was one.
“For a large part I thought our bowling was very good and Brooksy did brilliantly. They probably got 10 more than we would have liked, but it was a very fast outfield and a short boundary on one side, so we were relatively happy at the halfway point. We’ve chased a lot in this competition, so we felt we had it in ourselves to get them.
“It’s a brilliant win and a massive game in the context of the group with us second and them third.”
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