Somerset maintain 100% start
Azhar Ali and Peter Trego hit chanceless centuries as Somerset maintained a perfect start to the season with a 36-run Royal London One-Day Cup win over Essex Eagles (DLS method) at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
The pair added 217 for the second wicket, a Somerset record for any wicket in List A games against Essex, Azhar Ali hitting 110 and Trego contributing 141 to a total of 353 for five after their team had been invited to bat first in a contest reduced to 39 overs per side.
Essex had reached 82 for three from 12 overs in reply when rain forced a lengthy stoppage. When the teams went back on at 8.25pm, their target had become a further 109 from five overs and they fell 37 short.
The result gave Somerset maximum points from four group matches, while for Essex it was a third defeat in four games. Azhar Ali’s hundred was his 17th in List A cricket and it was Trego’s tenth.
The game got underway at 3pm, two hours after the scheduled start, because of rain. There was no hint of the run-feast to come when Siddle struck in the second over, Tom Banton skying a catch to cover.
Somerset’s new floodlights were on from the start and Azhar Ali and Trego began cautiously until the latter cut loose in the seventh over, pulling a six over mid-wicket off Sam Cook. He then lofted him over long-on into the River Tone.
Azhar Ali was first to his half-century, off 45 balls, his innings characterised by some wristy off-side shots. The century stand came up off 88 deliveries and Trego brought up his fifty with a straight six off Simon Harmer, having faced 46 balls.
The two batsmen, with a combined age of 71, showed all their experience in shot selection, never looking in any bother. Azhar Ali’s first List A century for Somerset and first for the County at Taunton in any competition was reached with a six over extra-cover off Matt Quinn.
The Pakistan Test player had faced 84 balls, hitting nine fours and four sixes. Trego went to three figures in the following over off 84 deliveries, with eight fours and four sixes, celebrating as extravagantly as if it had been his first ton.
By the time Azhar Ali was caught at long-on off Paul Walter, Somerset were well on course for a winning total. Trego went on to fall six short of his career-best List A score, while Lewis Gregory (21) and James Hildreth (40) cemented their side’s strong position.
After five balls of the Essex innings, a shower sent the players back to the dressing rooms. The visitors, on four without loss, faced a revised target of 311 off 33 overs when play resumed at 6.35pm and quickly lost Paul Walter, caught behind down the leg-side off Josh Davey for one.
Alastair Cook survived a sharp chance to Lewis Gregory at mid-wicket on 15 before falling to Craig Overton’s next delivery, wicketkeeper Banton taking a second catch off a thin edge.
When the tenth over was completed, the number required to constitute a game, Essex were on 71 for two, 34 behind on DLS.
Westley was bowled trying to lift van der Merwe over the leg side and shortly afterwards the clouds gathered and the umpires called another halt, with Dan Lawrence unbeaten on 32.
Another restart was ordered for 8.25pm. Essex, needing more than 21 an over for the target of 191, added 72 to close on 154 for six, Lawrence being dismissed for 51.
At the close of play Player of the Match, Peter Trego said: “At my age any century could be my last, so I was always going to enjoy it. It was nice to share a stand with Azhar.
“The rain probably spoiled a classic. Essex have some big-hitting batsmen and had they been able to use all 39 overs it might have been some game.
“We never get tired of singing our victory song and it has been heard a lot already this season. We’ve started really well and hopefully there is a lot to look forward to.”
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