Somerset 337 (Trego 73, Azhar 72, Banton 59) beat Nottinghamshire 222 (Slater 58, Hales 54) by 115 runs
There will be no Lord’s final for Alex Hales, not that even the most ardent county cricket follower would claim that was adequate compensation for missing out on a place in England’s World Cup campaign. Instead, Hales was part of a Nottinghamshire side shouldered aside by Somerset in an emphatic manner that will bring delight in the south-west.
Somerset have reached Lord’s the hard way. Since finishing third in South Group courtesy of a must-win floodlit tie against Surrey at Taunton on Tuesday night, they have seen off Worcestershire in the play-offs by 147 runs and now Nottinghamshire, this time by a margin of 115.
Hales’ dismissal for 54, as he fell to his favoured square cut, was the fourth Nottinghamshire wicket to fall, on 135, in a sequence of four wickets for 25 in 45 balls which changed the complexion of the match. Craig Overton ran jubilantly into the off side, pursued by the rest of the Somerset team, the importance of the wicket apparent. Sometimes you don’t have to just take a wicket, you have to kill a suspicion that fate is not on your side.
Somerset now contest the final of the last 50-over competition that will actually mean something and it is good that a county which still treasures the county game will be represented. In 2020, it will be denuded by running in direct competition with The Hundred. The most powerful counties will contest it while most of their squad are on loan elsewhere. Results will be devalued and statistics misleading. One giant-sized work experience scheme to give professionals who remain unsold in the auction for The Hundred something to do.
In Restaurant Six, Trent Bridge’s acclaimed new fine-dining restaurant and bar, the view of the cricket below became ever-more discouraging. One of the imaginative offerings of Dan Warren, Britain’s bartender of the year in 2018, is the Grass Cutter cocktail which evokes the smell of freshly-mown grass. Long before the end, it was the sort of day to put some extra gin in it.
Trent Bridge hosts so many big scores that no first-innings score ever feels safe. But Somerset’s 336 was a challenging total, disguised by several bad dismissals. The pitch was central (even if one of ropes was brought in more than necessary) and the ball did not purr onto the bat quite as conveniently as normal. Steven Mullaney termed the total “chaseable,” but conceded that Nottinghamshire had been outplayed in every department.
For Somerset to reach 182 for 1 by the 29th over was a considerable achievement. If Tom Banton‘s edge against Jake Ball, on 1, had not fallen just short of Matthew Carter at second slip, the outcome might have been different. But Banton, Azhar Ali and Peter Trego all made fifties, the admirable Lewis Gregory held the later stages together with 37, and the Overton twins made merry with 46 off 30 late on, their stand once again having the appealing atmosphere of a bit of a singalong at the end of something more serious.
Banton, after his century against Worcestershire, had to deal for the first time with national acclaim – most obviously in the form of Michael Vaughan’s Twitter feed. Vaughan told his 1.08m followers that Banton’s style reminded him of Kevin Pietersen. As Vaughan remarked, no pressure there then.
It is an apt comparison. Banton might have been influenced by Jos Buttler, who studied at the same school, but there are definite reminders in his long-limbed sweeps and reverse sweeps. Tall and elegant, he can rarely have played more methodically until he burst ahead with 24 off Matthew Carter’s second over, striking the offspinner over the ropes three times.
He fell for 59, flicking at a ball from Harry Gurney to be caught at the wicket, the only success for Gurney who had only just returned from a stint with Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, stood in for Darren Pattinson, who has a sore side, and Stuart Broad, not released by England, and went for 86 in 10 overs.
Alongside him, Azhar progressed furtively. His 71 from 70 balls was shorn of excess, a shrewd assessment of the nature of the pitch, until he swung and missed at Jake Ball. There was a similar run-a-ball contribution from Trego, who played with great responsibility for 73 until he was run out, sold down by the river by Gregory’s push into the leg side and change of heart over a single. George Bartlett’s second-ball duck, making room against Mullaney, suffered for the vaulting ambition of youth. Ball’s well-disguised slower balls helped him to 4 for 62 and Luke Fletcher, although wicketless, was also on the money.
Nottinghamshire perished with Hales, although the unsung Ben Slater played well for 58 until he worked Jamie Overton to short midwicket. When Ben Duckett reverse-swept to deep square, the bowler, Roelof van der Merwe, jumped to attention with the ball in the air as if the Duke of Edinburgh had suddenly walked onto the square and requested an audience.
There were still 11.4 overs remaining when the end came, Fletcher’s demise at long-on after a hard-hitting but futile 43 allowing Somerset to celebrate their second complete performance in 48 hours. For Tom Abell, already a much-loved Somerset captain at 25, a Lord’s final now lies ahead.