By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS suffered a poor start to their Vitality Blast title defence on Wednesday evening as they opened the competition versus Somerset; the hosts dominating with bat and bowl at Taunton to complete an eight wicket victory that avenges last year’s semi-final heartbreak against James Vince’s outfit at Edgbaston.
Under sunny skies, Somerset chose to field first and were quickly rewarded with two wickets from their first 7 balls; Craig Overton removing Ben McDermott (3) before Vince saw his left stump spiralled by Matt Henry to leave the score at 4-2. This was soon 12-3 after four overs as Joe Weatherley edged a loose delivery to slip.
Three slow overs of resistance pushed Hampshire to 26-3 before another two wickets fell in just four balls by Overton; Tom Prest (11) and Toby Albert (8) both edging behind to be caught by Tom Banton. But it wasn’t all one way traffic with Ross Whiteley and Liam Dawson picking up 4 boundaries including a six to pass the fifty.
Overton finished with three wickets for eight runs from his allocated overs but there was little respite from the brilliant Somerset fielding; reducing space for boundaries and building up frustration for both batsmen. And it led to the end of Dawson (15) as he was caught at point off Lewis Gregory, who also bowled Scott Currie (0).
Batting run rates slowed further as Hampshire moved to 61-7 after fourteen overs before losing the last three wickets with Ben Green clinching all of them; starting with a catch in the deep to remove Whiteley (18). Chris Wood (0) was caught before Nathan Ellis (14) departed after two boundaries to end the innings on 75-all-out.
Somerset came out slowly in their response with Will Smeed and Banton at the crease; the batting pair soon acerbating after two overs that yielded eight runs. This was no doubt boosted by a maximum drive for 6 from Banton off a Wood ‘yorker’, whilst two boundaries arrived off the fourth over as Ellis struggled with his length.
This assault continued with Banton clipping his fourth and fourth boundaries in quick succession; a particular shot sublimely stroked into the leg side area for four despite the best effort of the Hampshire fielders. But the bowlers did get a wicket in the powerplay; Smeed (5) being grabbed at third man to leave Somerset on 37-1.
Banton further treated the changes in bowling with little mercy as he smashed Dawson for another maximum into the stands; an approach that saw his departure for forty as he was stumped attempting a big heave over mid-off. But this only saw a muted celebration from the away bowlers with Somerset seemingly in full control.
The two quick wickets brought Tom Kohler-Cadmore (18*) and Tom Abell (9*) together with just twenty-seven runs to win; the latter reducing this massively with the third maximum of the innings. And victory was secured with sixty three balls remaining as Abell ran two in the covers off Mason Crane to clinch this one-sided game.
The champions sit bottom of the South Group after the opening round of fixtures but face a big opportunity to make amends on Friday night, where they will be hosting Middlesex at the Ageas Bowl. Another home match versus Surrey then follows on Wednesday (May 31) before the side travel up to play Essex Eagles on 02/06.
PICTURED BY SOMERSET CRICKET: Away batter looks dejected whilst Somerset bowlers take advantage of sunny conditions in Taunton; consigning the current title holders to a massive defeat to open Vitality Blast.