HAMPSHIRE HAWKS’ dream of winning a third Twenty-20 blast title are over after losing their semi-final versus Somerset at Edgbaston on Saturday afternoon, with the Cidermen winning by two wickets in the final over of a classic encounter played in brilliant sunshine as part of the Vitality Blast Finals Day.
That was despite Joe Weatherley hitting 71 runs as Hampshire made 150 from their allocated overs, with Somerset struggling on 34-5 before a remarkable comeback led by Ben Green that shocked media and supporters of both sides in Birmingham.
Having chosen to bowl first Somerset started well and pinpoint deliveries limited the scoring off the opening 10 balls, before two quick wickets left Hampshire on 8-2 in the third over. Toby Albert was dismissed by Josh Davey for five runs, while captain James Vince edged behind a Craig Overton delivery into the hands of Tom Banton. These two wickets brought Tom Prest and Weatherley to the crease for a mini comeback, before the former became Davey’s second victim. He was out for a duck as the ball smacked into his stumps; leaving the Hawks on 26-3 off four overs.
Weatherly and Dawson then put on 39 off six overs before the spin bowler was dismissed for 18 by Ben Green, while wicketkeeper Lewis McManus was quickly sent back to the pavilion after being caught at mid-off from a Lewis Goldsworthy delivery with the score left on 80-5 in the 13th over. James Fuller then hit 22 off 19 balls, including one six, before he was run out chasing a single as Roelof van der Merve did the damage with a direct hit.
Despite further losses of both Chris Wood (18) and Scott Currie (0) to Davey (4-34) to leave the score on 133-8, Weatherley had played a strong innings throughout despite the lack of partnerships as he reached his 50 in the 15th over just before Fuller’s dismissal. He did have a lucky escape early in his innings as he was dismissed off a no-ball following a recount of fielders from the powerplay, which gave the batsman a reprieve that nobody really seemed to appeal in the Hampshire ranks
He converted this into 71 runs before he was dismissed off the second-to-last ball, hitting two fours and five sixes in his 50-ball innings; which had almost single-handily given Hampshire a reasonable target to defend. The Hawks were then all out on the final ball for 150 runs, with another run-out as Brad Wheal couldn’t beat the fielding of Tom Lammonby, setting Somerset a target of 151 to win with many people suggesting this total was under-par on what seemed a good pitch for the batsmen.
The Cidermen looked good in their response as they reached 15-0 off the third over, but the game changed in favour of Hampshire as they took two wickets in seven balls. Dangerman Banton was caught off the bowling of Wheal before van der Merve was removed by Currie to leave the score on 19-2 in the fifth over. In a similar position to Hampshire’s innings, Somerset looked to rebuild and put some runs onto the board but lost three further wickets in an eight-ball spell to leave them in ruins on 34-5 with seven overs completed. Wood ended Will Smeed for 15 runs before Goldsworthy was run out in the next over for three off five deliveries. On the next ball, Mason Crane trapped Lammonby with a leg-before-wicket outcome as the Hawks took control of proceedings.
This flurry of wickets brought Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory to the crease, with the two batsmen putting together a good partnership of 45 runs off seven overs. But despite this resistance it looked to be slow going and not decisive for Somerset with the run-rate increasing to 11.3 per over; a fact not lost on their captain who hit his first boundary off his 19th ball following a spell of singles. But a similar shot in the next delivery saw his demise to leave the score on 79-6 with six overs left, the batsman flummoxed by Dawson’s spin-yorker as it smashed into the base of middle stump.
Needing 72 off the final 36 deliveries, Abell let rip with some controlled boundaries that pushed Somerset over the 100-run mark, the middle order batsman hitting three fours and two sixes to reach his half century off 33 deliveries. But when he was caught off the next ball for exactly 50 runs as Currie picked up this second wicket it felt like the final nail in the Cidermen’s coffin as they required 48 runs to win off 20 balls at a run rate of 15.4 per over.
With Hampshire seemingly preparing for a grand final appearance later in the evening, Ben Green suddenly leap into action after playing in Abell’s shadow during in the previous overs. The batsman, in at number eight, smashed three sixes off Wheal and then Wood in his 35 runs off 18 deliveries. Combining with Overton (11 runs off six balls), the pair added 36 in just 13 balls to leave the game on a knife-edge. But Hampshire were cock-a-hoop when Green was caught in the deep by Prest to give Wood his second wicket with seven balls left and 11 runs needed for a victory.
By this point Somerset were arguably now the favourites, knowing a tie would see them through by virtue of losing fewer wickets and scoring more boundaries. Not that this transpired, with 10 needed off the last over however as Josh Davey, having taken four Hampshire wickets earlier, hit a six over the longest boundary with three balls left to play following a single from Overton to put him on strike. The batsman then sealed Somerset’s win and a man-of-the match performance as he hit a four over the head of Gregory to spark jubilant celebrations for the Cidermen on the Edgbaston surface. After all, it was a special comeback in a thrilling semi-final that genuinely could have gone either way but sadly didn’t fall in Hampshire’s favour as their heartbroken players trudged off the pitch and started the long journey home just after 3pm following post-match interviews.
But the Hawks will need to regroup in time for a title decider versus Lancashire later this week, starting away in Liverpool on Tuesday morning at 10.30am. A victory will see Hampshire lift the County Championship for the first time since 1973, as well as securing a place in the five-day Bob Willis Final at Lords the following week and a chance to win a long format domestic double after their brilliant season to date. However it won’t be an easy encounter, as Lancashire boast the return of James Anderson to their bowling ranks, harbouring ambitions alongside Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire of their own double come the first weekend of October.
In the rest of Saturday’s action at Edgbaston, Kent were victorious by 21 runs versus Sussex in the second semi-final starting at 2.45pm, Daniel Bell-Drummond scoring 82 and bowler Fredrick Klaassen making the difference with four key wickets. This mean that the Spitfires went on to play Somerset with momentum, beating the Cidermen by 25 runs in the final, sealing the victory at about 9.30pm to cap an amazing day of cricket. Scorecards from all three games can be seen below:
SEMI FINAL 1 RESULT: Somerset (153-8) beat Hampshire (150 all out) by two wickets
SEMI FINAL 2 RESULT: Kent (168-8) beat Sussex Sharks (147 all out) by 21 runs
FINAL RESULT: Kent (167-7) beat Somerset (142-9) by 25 runs