By Connor Steel
SOMERSET continued their winning streak in the 2022 Vitality Blast on Monday night, beating Hampshire by four wickets at the Ageas Bowl in the South Group. But unlike Friday’s narrow topsy-turfy loss to Middlesex, the Hawks were simply outclassed as their top order was brilliantly dismantled by the away seamers and failed to recover, despite a cluster of wickets in the Cidermen’s innings that ultimately wasn’t enough to really turn the tide on a dry but overcast evening in Southampton.
Having elected to field Somerset forced many dot balls in the first three overs and got their reward with the wickets of both openers; Aneurin Donald (1) being caught off the bowling of Josh Davey and Tom Lammonby removing Ben McDermott with Will Smeed taking both catches. A third wicket soon arrived following a partnership between Joe Weatherly (16) and James Vince (12) as Lewis Gregory dismissed the former with a catch in the deep, leaving Hampshire on 37-3 at the end of the powerplay.
And it quickly worsened for the Hawks as Tom Abell produced a brilliant over-the-shoulder catch to remove Vince, before new batsman Ross Whiteley fell cheaply as he was caught and bowled off Gregory for ten; leaving the hosts on 57-5 at the half-way point and struggling to build momentum. This was despite the best efforts of James Fuller who then smashed five fours and two sixes in the middle order, hitting forty-two off 28 balls to drag Hampshire over the century mark; although lost regular partners as Liam Dawson (13) and Nathan Ellis (3) were both dismissed as they reached 101-7 with four overs left.
Fuller was the eighth wicket to fall just five balls later as he was caught off the bowling of Roelof van der Merve, who had previously hit the batsman shoulder, to leave Hampshire on 107-8. And the Hampshire innings was ended in the last over with the final two wickets following a hard-fought fourteen run partnership; Davey removing both Chris Wood (10) and Brad Wheal (1) as the Hawks were all out for 123 off their allocated twenty overs of batting on a bowler-friendly surface following rain in the afternoon.
In response to their modest target of 124, Somerset made a lighting quick start as their openers put the home bowlers away in the powerplay; hitting six fours and one six as they faced to 46-0 after five overs alongside a number of extras. But just as he was getting into his stride Tom Banton edged Wood’s delivery for twenty to become the first batsmen to fall, whilst Smeed quickly became the second as he was caught at midwicket by Fuller for twenty-two runs; leaving the Cidermen on 56-2 after just seven overs.
But Somerset were still in control as former-Hampshire player Rilee Rossouw looked in good nick as he hit three fours and one six in just eighteen balls, but was unable to add another half-century against his old county following two great scores last year; his looping shoot caught off deep midwicket to exit for 26 runs. This left the score on 80-3 and it quickly changed to 89-5 just two overs later; Abell (7) seeing his stumps hit by a Mason Crane googly and Gregory being trapped leg-before by Fuller for two off three balls.
These three wickets saw a slight change in momentum as Hampshire sought further inroads, hitting a rock in the form of Lammonby who hit two fours and a six at the end of the 15th over from Wood following a steady period of consolidation. But with a handful of runs needed to win the batsman was unable to finish the job as he was caught behind off Ellis for 33; leaving Ben Green to hit the winning runs with 25 balls left to play as Somerset sealed their four wicket victory to overtake Middlesex at the top of the South Group.
For Hampshire this was the second defeat from two games so far in the Vitality Blast; two very different games and performances ultimately costing them dear. The Hawks will now travel to Essex Eagles tonight (May 31) in Chelmsford, before a trip to Surrey on Thursday; ending a busy week with a home clash versus Sussex on Saturday in Southampton. All games will be played in the evening with different start times; the Hawks looking to rebuild their campaign in the shorter format of cricket following all the pre-season hype.
PICTURED BY BBC SPORT: Brad Wheal congratulates Somerset batsman on victory at the Ageas Bowl.