By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS bounced back from their weekend defeat to Surrey and kept the pressure on other Vitality Blast candidates for the quarter-finals, avenging two recent defeats versus Somerset in a last over thriller at Taunton on Thursday night. The result was a superb one for the away side on a dry evening of cricket as James Vince smashed another century in a two-hundred run batting display, before outstanding death bowling and a cluster of home wickets sealed a vital fourteen run win that sees the Hawks remain fourth in the South Group with three games left to play at this stage of the competition.
But it was Somerset who started better as they elected to field, taking the early wicket of Ben McDermott for a duck as the batsman top-edged a delivery from Tom Lammonby. Tight bowling throughout the powerplay followed this wicket despite some boundaries from Vince and Prest; with the pair adding forty five unbeaten runs in five and a half overs as they consistently showed great running between the sticks. Vince then hit a boundary past cover to complete the fifty partnership in the seventh over, whilst Prest hit Lewis Gregory for ten off the ninth over as the Hawks confidently made it to 83-1 at half-way.
And this is where the fun began for Hampshire as Vince hit three maximums across the park alongside Prest who hit his own six into the offside alongside multiple byes / extras. The pair passed the century mark with ease as both batters hit their individual fifties in the thirteenth over; before a fourteenth over blitz off Gregory saw thirty-one runs scored. This include three sixes from Vince and yet another from Prest, whose innings was ended on sixty-two runs as he edged a wide ball from Jack Brookes through to the wicketkeeper; Ross Whiteley joining him for a golden duck as the away side reached 144-3 off fifteen.
Although Joe Weatherley (6) was dismissed by Peter Siddle, this didn’t matter as Vince simply exploded; hitting three balls for four and adding another double boundary to complete his ton in the 18th over with his second fifty coming in just 15 balls. He then accelerated further towards the end as he ran three runs on two separate occasions alongside an 8th and 9th maximum; James Fuller only needing to play three balls before being caught in the final over. This left Hampshire on 199-5 with another nine runs scored off the last five deliveries; Vince adding another six as he finished on 129 unbeaten alongside Toby Albert (2).
Needing 209 to win after Vince’s heroics, Somerset started brightly following a ten minute rain delay with openers Tom Banton and Will Smeed; the pair combining boundaries, sixes and fast running to reach 45-0 after the powerplay. Another two sixes were hit by Smeed as the partnership reached 81 in the ninth with the batsman dismissed in his flow by an outstanding catch by McDermott off Fuller to depart for 43. But this first wicket didn’t slow the run-rate as Rilee Rossouw smashed one six and a four facing his opening two balls, accompanying Banton as the team passed the century mark in the 10th over and were equal to the run-rate.
Two milestones then followed in the thirteenth over after another flurry of boundaries, Banton reaching his fifty off 36 balls and bringing up the 50 partnership with a maximum to leave the home side needing seventy eight off 45 deliveries. And although Banton was bowled through the legs to leave the crease for 54 runs by Chris Wood, Rossouw continued his assault with another selection of shots across the outfield; the opener accompanied by the solid Tom Abell (13) as Somerset reached 167-2 at the drinks break. Needing just 41 runs to win from four overs and a big hitter it was quickly turning the way of the hosts, with nobody expecting the collapse that followed through brilliant bowling and fielding alongside poor shot selection.
Wheel dismissed Abell (13) after two dot balls to start the seventeenth over with frustration also leading to the wicket of George Bartlett (2) just seven balls later. A glimmer of hope saw Rossouw reach his fifty before his fine innings was ended for 55 by Liam Dawson, who also took the wicket of Lammonby in the 19th over caught at long-on as Somerset were needing 24 off the last seven balls. Despite Ben Green hitting a long maximum, Gregory was run out by Fuller’s deep throw and was quickly followed back by Roelof Van der Merve for a duck as Nathan Ellis showed accuracy to limit the runs; the victory being secured off the final ball as Siddle was run out with Somerset finishing on 194-9 from their twenty overs.
The victory is Hampshire’s sixth in seven games since their opening four defeats, a streak that has lifted them into the fourth and final quarter-final place after eleven games out of 14 played. Their next match will take place later this evening (June 24) as they travel to Gloucestershire at the Seat Unique Stadium, with the reverse fixture at the Ageas Bowl next Friday night to start July. But for now attentions must turn to first class cricket as Hampshire play Essex away starting on Sunday, the visitors hoping to maintain pressure on current leaders Surrey in the County Championship Division One title race.
PICTURED BY SOMERSET CRICKET CLUB: Batsman hits out in opening blitz before late home collapse.