Somerset eye Friends Life t20 last eight after triumph
Somerset took a significant step toward the Friends Life t20 quarter-finals as they maintained their unbeaten start to the competition with a dominant seven-wicket victory at Northamptonshire.
Somerset, with four wins from the four Midlands/Wales/West group games they have completed so far, limited the Steelbacks to 115-6 – and then reached their target with 38 balls to spare.
The visitors completely outplayed Northants – and were inspired by 2-10 from Arul Suppiah, 2-14 from Steve Kirby and impressive batting displays from the returning Craig Kieswetter, who hit 51, and Richard Levi, who blasted a 17-ball 35.
After their bowlers had taken charge, allowing only 5.75 runs an over, Levi and Kieswetter made it clear they were not going to hang around.
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Levi, who only returned to the country 24 hours earlier after playing for South Africa in a Twenty20 tournament in Zimbabwe, showed no signs of jetlag as he hit the second ball he faced for six, before adding a further three sixes and two fours in an entertaining knock at the top of the innings.
When he fell in the sixth over, Somerset were already more than halfway toward their target of 116, and Kieswetter carried on in exactly the same vein, hitting Oli Stone for three fours off one over to bring up his 12th Twenty20 fifty.
He was bowled by Con de Lange, having scored his 51 runs from 35 balls with a six and six fours, but, when he fell, his team had already advanced to 99-2 inside 11 overs.
Almost from the second over, when Levi hit Jack Brooks for the first six of the match, it had been a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’, Somerset would triumph. Jos Buttler was dropped in the deep while on one – and, the following over, Pete Trego was lbw to De Lange for eight.
But James Hildreth (one not out) and Buttler (13 not out) saw their side comfortably across the line in 13.4 overs – and, perhaps fittingly for the hosts on a calamitous night for them, the winning run came courtesy of a wide, bowled by James Middlebrook.
Northants’ 115-6 always looked a little light – despite a generally off-colour fielding display from Somerset’s usually tight unit – with only skipper Alex Wakely, who scored 34 from 43 balls, putting up much of a scrap.
But the home side, strangled by excellent bowling from Kirby, Suppiah and George Dockrell in particular, went for more than half of their innings – from the eighth over to the 18th – without scoring a boundary, a shortcoming of which Somerset later made considerable light.
In fact, they only found the ropes on ten occasions in the entire match and were on the back foot as soon as Kirby’s two-over opening spell yielded figures of 2-4.
First, the seamer clean-bowled Kyle Coetzer for nine, taking out his middle and off stumps, before accounting for Chaminda Vaas for the same score when he tried to pull and sent the ball high into the air and Nick Compton’s hands.
Dangerman Cameron White got started, racing to 14 in 12 balls, but picked out Jos Buttler in the deep off Dockrell – and, without the Australian, the Steelbacks looked the antithesis of their moniker.
Rob White spooned Dockrell to Alfonso Thomas at extra cover for five to leave the hosts on 70-4 in the 12th over, before the left-arm spin of Suppiah accounted for skipper Wakely and David Willey in the same over – both stumped by Craig Kieswetter.
Wakely charged down the wicket and attempted a massive swipe, which he missed, and Kieswetter extravagantly ripped off his bails, before Willey fell in a similar fashion to a second-ball duck.
James Middlebrook (22 not out from 27 balls) and David Murphy (18 not out from 12) put up some resistance at the end in an unbroken 30-run stand – but it was far too little, far too late to give their bowlers anything close to a defendable target.
Somerset leg-spinner Max Waller is facing two weeks out of action with a side strain. But overseas star Albie Morkel , who missed last night’s game with a slight hamstring problem, is expected to come into contention for Friday’s derby clash with Gloucestershire at Taunton.