Essex handed thrashing at home to Somerset in Vitality Blast
- Credit: Ray Lawrence/TGS Photo
Vitality Blast Southern Group: Essex Eagles (111) lost to Somerset (225-6) by 114 runs.
Essex Eagles suffered a disappointing and potentially damaging defeat at home to Somerset in the Southern Group of the Vitality Blast this evening.
In front of a packed County Ground, the visitors smashed their way to 225-6 and it was over a hundred runs too many for Anthony McGrath's men.
A capitulation saw the home side go from 75-2 to 93-8 and in the end they fell short by 114 runs, to lose for a fourth time in the competition from seven fixtures.
Eagles won their most recent fixture in the competition last Friday by 25 runs away to Gloucestershire in Bristol and were hoping to build on it against their rivals for the County Championship Division One title.
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The hosts' made a change to their starting XI though, with Ravi Bopara back involved in place of Shane Snater.
Somerset won the toss and captain Tom Abell decided to bat first and everyone inside the County Ground saw Tom Banton show why he is so highly rated.
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He smashed 22 off Aaron Beard's opening over, including a switch hit for four and a fine drive for six towards the River End stand.
It was a sign of things to come and Somerset brought up their fifty off 23 balls, with the batting prospect now on 39 off 15.
Simon Harmer had used Beard, Adam Zampa and Paul Walter to no avail and turned to Bopara, who immediately sparked a reaction.
After having his first ball - a dot - cheered, his next delivery saw Banton caught after trying one switch-hit too many.
Zampa snapped up the catch and Walter then took an even better one, diving forward off the next ball to dismiss James Hildreth for a golden duck.
The golden arm had come up trumps for Eagles and now Mohammed Amir returned, after conceding only five off his first over, and went for just eight, although compatriot Babar Azam remained at the crease.
He moved into the twenties with a four off the penultimate ball of Zampa's second over before t20 captain Harmer introduced himself into the attack, but Somerset were still going at 10-an-over at the end of the eighth, sitting on 80-2.
Bopara was summoned again, following his impressive double-wicket first over, and this one went for only two singles and a well-run two.
Any encouragement Essex supporters gained from those six balls were diminished a touch as Somerset captain Abell smashed a maximum plus a four off Beard, who had figures of 0-35 off two overs.
Pakistan star Azam had moved onto 31 by the end of the 10th over with away skipper Abell onto 25 now.
The hundred was soon brought up as runs continued to flow despite the best efforts of ex-England all-rounder Bopara, who boasted excellent figures of 12-2 off 18 balls.
Somerset opener Azam was getting into his stride now and whacked Harmer through the leg-side for another maximum into the River End stand.
Having watched his partner smash six, Abell joined in the fun and swatted the Essex captain for back-to-back sixes and then a four - in an over costing 23 - to move onto 43 off 23 balls with the visitors on 129-2 off 12.
Zampa saw the back of him, however, with Adam Wheater stumping the middle-order batsmen five short of a half-century to give Eagles hope they come pull the score back into a more gettable target.
The Australian was making the most of the sun being in the eyes of batsmen in action at the River End and moved onto a more respectable 25-1 from three overs.
Dan Lawrence was thrown the ball by Harmer afterwards and the England prospect did a decent job, going for only seven as Somerset reached 139-3 with 36 balls left.
Azam continued on her merry way and reached his half-century off 37 balls, hitting two fours to ruin what had been a more respectable over from the Essex captain as the away side hit the 150-mark.
Bopara returned for his final over and continued his good evening by tempting Azam to pick out Harmer by the boundary rope with an ill-timed pull, ending his innings for a measured 56.
The one-time Hainault & Clayhall youngster should have grabbed a fourth dismissal when Eddie Byrom's switch-hit shot went to Amir, but he spilled the chance, which meant Eagles' all-rounder had to settle for excellent figures of 3-18 on his t20 return.
Harmer turned to Amir next, but he suffered some punishment, with Byrom making the most of his extra life to launch two huge sixes off the Pakistan bowler.
An inside edge which flew past the stumps by millimetres meant Somerset's number five moved onto 28 off 18 with the visitors on 174-4 with three overs to go.
Byrom hit one of the flats by the ground off Zampa's second ball in his final over and then tried a repeat, but had to settle for merely one more maximum.
Somerset were well on their way to a score of 200 plus now and yet Bopara got rid of the middle-order batsmen eventually.
Having lost his footing when trying to catch him a ball earlier, the Essex number 25 made no mistake next time, taking a high catch off Zampa's bowling to dismiss Byron for a brilliant 44 off 22 balls.
Eagles were slightly clawing the score back and Amir had Roelof van der Merwe caught behind by Wheater for nine as he concluded his four expensive overs for 1-42.
With six balls left, Somerset were on 205-6 and Beard was called upon to bowl the last over, which saw him suffer more punishment.
A combination of Tom Lammonby and Craig Overton smashed the Chelmsford ace for a further 20 runs, seeing him end with 0-53 and setting Essex 226 to win.
McGrath's men defended that very total against Surrey in July, but chasing it was a different story under the lights at a sold-out County Ground.
Plenty was riding on how Cameron Delport fared and he needed five balls to get in, allowing Jerome Taylor to pick up three dots in his opening over.
Unfortunately for the West Indian his next three balls went to the boundary and now Essex's South African was on his way.
Delport quickly moved into the twenties and yet he picked out Abell at cover off the bowling of Tim Groenewald to go for 22 off 14 balls.
It was an all too brief innings from the Eagles opener, especially with such a large target to reach and Wheater joined Tom Westley at the crease, but the other opener departed in the next over, caught for 20 off the bowling of Craig Overton.
Lawrence came to the crease to help Essex rebuild and they reached 52-2 at the end of the powerplay overs.
Initially it was slow going from the pair, but the introduction of van der Merwe saw him launched for two sixex.
He got revenge over Wheater though, as the wicket-keeper picked out Hildreth and went for 16.
Trinity Catholic High School pupil Lawrence was still at the crease, but his stay was up in the next over when Overton claimed a fine catch off Max Waller to dismiss the middle-order batter for 24, which had come at a strike rate of 200.
Overton gave a send-off in front of the Tiptree Stand and as Lawrence left the pitch he became involved in a war of words.
Ryan ten Doeschate's stay was all too brief and Bopara's was as well and Essex were suddenly 89-6 and in need of a minor miracle.
Walter went in the next over, lbw to van der Merwe, as the hosts capitulation all but gave the points to Somerset with 10 overs still left of their innings.
Captain Harmer could not stop the rot, out for two, but Beard gave the fans flooding out through the exit gates something to cheer on their way out.
He smashed a six, then brought up the Eagles' three figures before another shot went to the boundary, but van der Merwe had the last laugh.
Somerset's spinner had Beard caught and it handed him his best t20 figures, picking up 5-28 off his four overs.
Amir was the next man in, but Waller saw him off, taking 3-26 overall, as Essex were dismissed for 111 with 8.1 overs left much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
It was a heavy defeat and one which makes qualification for the knock-out phase very difficult ahead of Friday's clash at Glamorgan.
Eagles need a victory in Wales against the struggling side, and go there with very few positives to take from this match in Chelmsford.