Nine wicket victory for Gloucestershire Gladiators over Somerset in t20
Gloucestershire Gladiators produced a stunning performance with bat and ball at Taunton to inflict a shock nine-wicket Friends Life t20 defeat upon arch rivals Somerset and revive memories of their glory years.
Winners of seven one-day titles between 1999 and 2004, Gloucestershire ruled the domestic roost for much of the previous decade.
They have since fallen upon hard times, failing even to qualify for the knockout stages of the t20 in any of the last four seasons, and they went into a meeting with last year’s runners-up as rank outsiders.
Previously unbeaten in six outings and sitting pretty at the pinnacle of the Midlands/Wales & West Group, Somerset received a rude awakening in front of their biggest crowd of the season.
Restricted to a meagre 140-8 – their lowest t20 total at Taunton this summer – Somerset were then put firmly in their place by Benny Howell and Hamish Marshall, who staged a magnificent opening partnership of 115 in 12.1 overs as the visitors rushed to victory with 32 balls to spare.
A second victory in four completed matches not only revived Gloucestershire’s prospects of reaching the quarter-finals but also blew the group wide open, calling into question Somerset’s pre-eminence.
If a full-house crowd of 7,500 turned up expecting to see Somerset’s much-vaunted batting line-up put Gloucestershire’s bowlers to the sword, they were quickly disabused of the idea.
Accustomed to flying out of the traps at Taunton, the home side tried to play their shots from the outset and paid the price on a worn pitch, South African opener Richard Levi attempting to drive James Fuller and falling to a fine diving catch by Marshall at extra cover in the second over.
Kevin O’Brien was understandably eager to post a decisive score against the team he played for last season, only to become Fuller’s second victim, held by Howell at deep square leg for just eight.
Somerset’s power-play was further undermined when Ian Saxelby located Nick Compton’s inside edge and the country’s leading first class run-scorer was caught at the wicket for 21.
James Hildreth followed him back to the pavilion two overs later, caught behind in the foolhardy act of sweeping Muttiah Muralitharan’s first delivery from the river end.
If things appeared bleak at 47-4, Somerset would have been still worse off had Jonathan Batty not fumbled a straightforward catch behind the stumps to gift Jos Buttler a life on one.
The England twenty20 starlet made good his escape, raising 23 from 26 balls and staging a restorative stand of 33 in four overs with Albie Morkel. Just as he was threatening to redress the balance and take the game by the scruff of the neck, the local hero suffered an inexplicable rush of blood to the head, giving slow left armer Ed Young the charge and over-balancing as Batty whipped off the bails.
Sensing an opportunity to turn the screw and apply further pressure, Gloucestershire’s two spinners sent down eight overs between them at a cost of just 38 runs.
Arul Suppiah played all around Muralitharan’s final ball, which hit middle and leg, as the veteran Sri Lankan finished with 2-20, while Young’s 1-18 proved equally impressive.
Well and truly between a rock and a hard place at 83-6 in the 13th over, Somerset were now heavily dependent upon South African hired hand Morkel. Unsure whether to stick or twist, the burly left-hander sensibly opted to play responsibly for his team and he saw Somerset into three figures before opening his shoulders and smiting a four and six off successive deliveries to sully Saxelby’s figures.
But Gloucestershire’s seam bowler had the last laugh, Morkel offering a straightforward catch to Ian Cockbain at long-off, having contributed 33 from 28 balls, including a brace of fours and sixes.
Just when it looked as though last season’s runners-up were going to fall woefully short of what was required, they received a helping from an entirely unexpected source, Fuller serving up three successive full tosses in a wayward over that included a no-ball and cost 18 runs.
Lewis Gregory made the most of easy pickings at the death to post 21 valuable runs and haul his team towards respectability.
But Somerset’s lowest total in four innings at headquarters this summer appeared inadequate once Marshall and Howell had given Gloucestershire’s reply crucial early momentum.
Under pressure to defend a low score for the first time in seven outings, Somerset’s seam bowlers lost their discipline at times and were found wanting. And spinners George Dockrell and Suppiah fared no better, flustered out of their line by an increasingly confident opening pair.
At liberty to chase without taking undue risks, Marshall and Howell were able to work the ball into gaps while awaiting the bad ball – and there were far too many of those for Somerset director of cricket Brian Rose’s liking.
Playing a captain’s innings, Marshall raised a half century from 35 balls and had harvested 66 from 42 deliveries, including 7 fours and 2 sixes, when he steered a ball from Dockrell to mid-wicket.
No matter. Howell remained in place to seal a truly remarkable victory, the former Hampshire batsman finishing unbeaten on 55 from 40 balls. He smashed 8 fours and a six.