Somerset make it two out of two!
Somerset made it two out of two in this year’s Vitality Blast following a comprehensive six-wicket win over Essex Eagles at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
Marchant de Lange, Rilee Rossouw and Will Smeed were the standout performers as Jason Kerr’s side continued their impressive start to the campaign.
Rain during the Essex innings reduced the match to 18 overs per side, de Lange shone brightly under darkening skies taking four for nine from three overs as Essex posted 139 for nine after losing the toss.
Josh Davey finished with three for 31, and only Matt Critchley (60 from 38 balls) offered any real resistance.
Chasing a revised total of 144, Somerset eased to their target with 3.2 overs to spare. Rossouw continued his form from the opening fixture at Kent by blitzing 67 off 29 balls, with seven sixes, and he was well supported by Smeed, who smashed 58 from 30 deliveries, including five sixes.
Essex got off to a slow start after Somerset skipper Tom Abell had elected to field, losing openers Will Buttleman and Adam Rossington to Davey and Tom Lammonby respectively, off the first 14 balls.
However, Critchley and Pepper got the innings on track, taking the score to 50 for two by the end of the six-over power play, Critchley striking three boundaries in the fourth over, sent down by Davey.
Pepper reverse swept left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe for three fours in the seventh over, as well as driving him through cover for a fourth boundary.
Critchley hit Lewis Gregory for six over point as the pair took the total to 83 by the end of the ninth over before de Lange took a decisive hand.
Having conceded five from his first over, the strapping South African seamer had Pepper caught at mid-on, having faced 24 balls, and Paul Walter taken at fine leg for a duck in a tenth over that saw the Eagles fail to add to their score.
The spin duo of van der Merwe and Lewis Goldsworthy then bowled five overs in tandem for only 34 runs, Goldsworthy picking up the wicket of Tom Westley, as Somerset turned the screw.
Critchley had reached a 32-ball fifty when rain interrupted play at the end of the 15th over, with Essex 117 for five.
By the time the players returned to the field at 5.50pm, the match had been reduced to 18 overs. Their final three saw the Eagles loose two wickets to Davey and two to de Lange, including Critchley, who had struck six fours and two sixes.
Smeed ensured Somerset made a rapid start to their reply, lofting two maximums in the third over, bowled by Dan Sams, before Ben Allison had Tom Banton caught at deep mid-wicket for two.
The powerful Smeed collected his third and fourth sixes off Sam Cook at the end of the fifth over, and by the end of the power play Somerset had raced to 69 for one, Rossouw joining the party with a six over mid-wicket off Simon Harmer.
The South African left-hander built on his match-winning Somerset debut innings at Canterbury on Wednesday, hoisting left-arm spinner Aron Nijjar for three sixes in the ninth over, which saw Smeed reach a 25-ball half-century.
Rossouw cleared the ropes twice more off Critchley, while Smeed also treated the crowd to another six in the same over. Both fell late on, along with Tom Abell, but by then the outcome had long been settled.
At the end of the match de Lange said: “The bowling unit stuck to the plan and we adjusted to the conditions well. It’s a bit of a cliché, but we stuck to the basics of hitting a hard length up top, and then playing with the batters minds a bit at the death. Everything went fairly well for us today.
“I believe that we have the firepower in the side to chase any total. The fans come to see the ball disappear and to see stumps flying, and they saw that today. We’ve got some unbelievable players in the squad and there are a lot of sixes to be had for our batters.
“We’ve got some momentum now and hopefully that can continue at Hampshire tomorrow.”
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