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Somerset begin Vitality Blast with big win at Kent

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Somerset came out on top against Kent Spitfires in the repeat of last season’s Vitality Blast final at the Spitfire Ground, Canterbury tonight.

In the buildup to the game the Somerset coaches and players were quick to play down talk of revenge, but the eight wicket victory will, one imagines, be doubly sweet for those associated with the West Country club.

Although silverware wasn’t at stake on this occasion, the manner of the victory is a big statement of intent for last year’s runners up as they seek to go one better in 2022.

Overseas signing Rilee Rossouw will no doubt grab the headlines, and rightly so, as he hit 81 from 54 balls (including seven fours and two sixes), whilst Tom Abell, who has taken over the captaincy of the Vitality Blast side this year, made 48 from 29.

Chasing 163 for victory, the visitors  coasted home to finish on 166 for two with five balls to spare, after a Roussow and Abell shared an unbeaten stand of 121.

Earlier Jack Leaning hit 72 from 43 balls, as the champions recovered from just 52 for four at halfway to post 162 for six, Lewis Gregory taking three for 25 on his 100th T20 appearance for Somerset.

After losing the toss and being asked to field, the visitors removed England’s Zak Crawley for four in the second over when he hit Josh Davey to Roelof van der Merwe at cover.

Daniel Bell-Drummond somehow survived Davey’s next over, only to fall for 12 when he swished Lewis Gregory to the diving Lewis Goldsworthy.

Kent edged to 30 for two at the end of the powerplay and then lost captain Sam Billings for just five in the seventh, when he edged Gregory behind.

Ben Green bowled Joe Denly for five in the next over and then nearly had Jordan Cox caught for a golden duck, the ball just eluding backward point.

The Cox-Leaning partnership that repeatedly bailed Kent out during their title-winning season was worth 52, until the former spooned Goldsworthy to Tom Abell for 11 in the 14th over and it was left to Linde to hit the accelerator.

His 15-ball 29 included a maximum off Green that cleared the Knott-Underwood Stand and flew out of the ground. Leaning hit the first delivery with the replacement ball for a staggering six that landed on a top floor balcony on the Old Dover Road side of the ground.

Gregory had Linde caught by Lammonby at long on with the first ball of the 18th, but Grant Stewart added 14 from eight balls to set what looked a competitive target.

Somerset lost Tom Banton for nine when he swiped Matt Milnes to Leaning at deep square leg and Will Smeed for 21 when he pulled Fred Klaassen to Cox on the square leg boundary, but Kent’s failure to take wickets proved crucial.

The visitors were 65 for two at halfway and Rossouw and Abell kept the run rate under 11 an over. With wickets in hand they took 15 from Qais Ahmad in the 17th over, leaving them needing 26 from 18.

A misfield for four at the start of the 18th tilted the equation firmly in Somerset’s favour and Roussow then mowed Milnes for a six. Needing just a single from the final over, Somerset sealed the win when Roussow drove Klaassen down the ground for four.

After the match, Somerset skipper, Tom Abell said: “We’re obviously delight with how things have gone tonight. It’s a tough place to come and our record at Canterbury hasn’t been great over the years, but to put in a performance like that and start our campaign off with a really good win is particularly pleasing.

“To see Rilee play like that on his debut was awesome and the start that we made with the ball was fantastic. The bowlers hit a really good length and we’re really happy with what was a good team performance.

“We learned from the first innings and knew that it would get easier towards the end. The boys at the top eased a lot of the pressure and got us of to a good start. We know that Rilee is world class. He strikes the ball so well, and it takes the pressure off when you got someone who can hit boundaries at will.”

Rilee Rossouw earned the man of the match award, and after the presentation he said: “I’m happy that I was able to score so many runs for the team and most importantly help us to get that win. The bowlers did brilliantly to hit their lines and lengths in the first innings, and Bants and Smeedy set the tone for us with their flair. We’ve got a squad full of talented players and Abes played his innings perfectly.

“Chasing that total on that wicket was a tough ask, Kent bowled well and it went right down to the last over, but we batted really well.”

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