Somerset 142 for 7 (Abbott 4-23) beat Surrey 118 (Henry 3-19, Overton 3-24, Green 3-25) by 24 runs
Craig Overton, Matt Henry and Ben Green claimed three wickets apiece in a stunning defence of a sub-par target of 143, as Somerset overcame Surrey by 24 runs to book their place in the Vitality Blast final, where they will face the 2019 champions, Essex, with the chance to cap a record-breaking campaign with their first T20 title since 2005.At the halfway mark of the contest, it seemed Surrey already had one foot in the final, after a masterful display from their own seam attack, led by Sean Abbott’s stand-out figures of 4 for 23. The build-up to their campaign had been overshadowed by the absence of Sunil Narine, who opted to stay in the USA for the maiden season of Major League Cricket, but Surrey didn’t require a single over of spin. Their extraordinary wealth of allrounders seemed to have turned up the ideal combination for the blustery conditions, but as it transpired, they had simply inspired their opponents to raise their own game in response.
Desperation does the trick for Somerset
After finishing as runners-up and semi-finalists in consecutive Finals Days, Tom Abell had conceded Somerset were “desperate” to go one better this year. And while that was a choice of words that might have implied weakness, it was also an apt description of their hungry, clawing response to a sub-par batting display.
In the course of Somerset’s innings, Jamie Overton didn’t even get a bowl against his old county, given how stacked with pace options his new team clearly is. But the onus on hitting the pitch hard and forcing Surrey into errors was right up his alley of his Taunton-based twin brother. With his fourth ball of the chase, Craig Overton found enough jag off the seam from his favourite back-of-a-length to smash Laurie Evans stumps for a second-ball duck, and spark his side with renewed belief.
Matt Henry’s hardly averse to hard lengths either. His second over did for the key scalp of Jason Roy, who looked aghast skywards as an attempted flick to leg got pick on him and spiralled out to a sprawlingv Sean Dickson, running in from deep square. And with the going good for the quicks, Lewis Gregory gambled on a third powerplay over for Overton, and was quickly vindicated as Will Jacks holed out to deep midwicket.
At 24 for 3, Somerset had stolen the ascendancy for the first time in the match, albeit at the cost of five overs from their strike bowlers.
Green and Sodhi becalm the middle order
Gregory, however, still had a significant trump card up his sleeve. Green, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, entered the attack for the eighth over of the innings, and struck with his first ball as Sam Curran scuffed a tame drive to Henry at mid-on (38 for 4). He left for 5 from 10 balls, perhaps ruing his failure to assert himself against the legspin of Ish Sodhi, whose previous over – the first sighting of spin in this contest – had gone for just five runs.
With the wind now swirling and making strikes down the ground from the City End particularly fraught with peril, Green’s naggingly awkward cutters were the ideal impediment for a team in a hurry. Jamie Smith didn’t get the memo, with an ill-conceived club down the ground that held in the breeze and was dying on Craig Overton as he swooped in from long-on.
Jamie Overton, next man in, got away with a similar drill that scudded over the head of long-off for a second-ball four, and though he found a more convincing route to the rope in Sodhi’s next over, one ball later he too was gone, and in the most galling fashion possible … another long-levered club down the ground, but straighter this time and straight into the hands of his brother at long-on (68 for 6).
Surrey’s unparalleled depth means that no cause is lost until the tenth wicket has been toppled, and as the England pairing of Tom Curran and Chris Jordan combined with 75 needed from 48 balls, it was clear that Somerset’s graft was not done yet. Three sixes in as many overs kept that rate very much under control, with both men recognising that the short leg-side boundary from the City End was the place to take on the quicks.
But then, after depositing the return Overton in that very direction, Jordan succumbed to the same stroke three balls later, getting underneath his pull on this occasion for Will Smeed to cling on at square leg. And one over later, with a touch of desperation setting in, Curran decided to chance his arm on the long side instead, and wiped Henry into the hands of deep midwicket. He departed for 22 for 15, with his team in the soup at 103 for 8.
Three balls later, Green had his third – and his 30th of the tournament – after another reviewed nick off Cam Steel, and nine balls later, Somerset were home and hosed, as Abbott became just the latest – but arguably most blameless – victim of some superb outfielding, as Smeed clung onto another flat smash into the leg side.
Top-order power failure
Somerset’s record-breaking run in the group stages had been built on the form of their bombastic top three. Smeed, Tom Banton and Tom Kohler-Cadmore came into Finals Day with more than 400 runs apiece, each at strike-rates in excess of 150. And though it hardly seemed like it at the time, their application of the usual template for the first four overs of match would prove to be the difference between the teams.
It wasn’t that Smeed and Banton came hurtling out of the blocks in their opening stand of 38 (the same score at which Surrey would lose their fourth wicket), but with four fours and a six between them – the latter swatted off the eyebrows over fine leg by Smeed – the pair had emerged with a clear determination to get busy. That trait would be noticeably absent by the back-end of the innings, with not a single boundary coming from the final 20 balls as Jordan and Tom Curran nailed their death lengths.
That Smeed six, however, had been a harbinger of the hardships to come. Gus Atkinson’s extra pace had all but decapitated his quarry in the process, and when Abbott entered the attack with similar licence to slip the handbrake, he took just two balls to make the breakthrough. More pace and bounce outside off drew a flat-footed drive from Smeed, and after a review, a thin nick through to the keeper was confirmed.
Banton carried on attacking, dispatching Atkinson for a second six with an excellently played ramp over fine leg. But one ball later, he too was gone – once again via a review as Atkinson followed him down the leg side with that pitch-battering length and found another graze of willow to the keeper. Kohler-Cadmore by this stage had got off the mark with a genuine edge through deep third off Abbott, but he wouldn’t add to his boundary count before Abbott got his revenge, via a steepling catch to point. Somerset’s big three were gone before the end of the tenth over and the innings never quite regained its poise. In the end, it never needed to.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket