How Somerset Blasted Back to the Top in T20
Having suffered defeat in four successive appearances in the final of the T20 Blast, Somerset returned to the top of the pile in 2023 as the county ended an 18-year wait for a second victory in the domestic Twenty20 competition.
Somerset had been the third winners of the competition back in 2005, edging defending champions Leicestershire by four runs in a dramatic semi-final before captain Graeme Smith smashed an unbeaten 64 to lead the team to victory against Lancashire in the final.
Four years later, Somerset would lose out to a Dwayne Smith-inspired Sussex but again made it to the final the following season to face Hampshire – a team it had already defeated twice in the group stage.
Batting first, Somerset posted a target of 174 and in a dramatic finale, Hampshire tied the scores at 173 – but took victory thanks to losing one wicket less. Leicestershire then sent Somerset down to a third final defeat in as many years in 2011, winning the final by 18 runs.
Following on from another runner-up finish in 2021, Somerset made it to the semi-finals a year later, posting a record-breaking total in a quarter-final win over Derbyshire before being knocked out by eventual winners Hampshire.
That meant the wait for victory continued into 2023, with Somerset embarking on its Vitality Blast programme amongst those fancied for success.
A demolition of Hampshire in the opening fixture - where Craig Overton took 3-8 and Ben Green 3-11 to bowl the opposition out for just 74 - was a fine start to proceedings as the team knocked off the required runs in less than ten overs.
That would be the first of six successive wins to leave Somerset sitting pretty at the top of the South Group before two defeats in three games – including the return fixture with Hampshire.
They would prove to be small blips however as five straight victories allowed the team to qualify with ease for the quarter finals, having scored the most points and with the best net run rate across both groups.
The quarter-final draw saw Somerset welcome Nottinghamshire to Taunton, with the visitors taking the decision to bat first after winning the toss.
Falling to 17-3 early on in the innings, Nottingham managed to make it to 157-6 after some strong bowling from the home team, who then lost two early wickets and were five down before the end of the tenth over in reply.
However, Lewis Gregory smashed an unbeaten half-century and Ben Green joined him at the crease to hit the winning runs in a five-wicket win with three balls to spare.
That meant another trip to Edgbaston for finals day for a semi-final against Surrey but, in a match shortened to 19 overs a side, Somerset were restricted to just 142/7 – setting the opposition a victory target that was more than achievable.
With Essex waiting for the winners, Matt Henry, Craig Overton and Ben Green each took three wickets as the county champions were bowled out for just 118 – putting Somerset through to a sixth final.
Having lost the toss and been put in to bat, Somerset again set a relatively modest target as only four men reached double figures in the final, with Sean Dickson top scoring as he hit 53 off 35 balls.
As in the semi-final however, Somerset were on top from the moment Matt Henry had Adam Rossington caught with the score on 27. Henry then grabbed two more wickets in his next over and by the time the fifth wicket fell, Essex had only 55 on the board.
Daniel Sams would fight on as wickets continued to tumble around him but when Henry had him caught for his fourth wicket in a man of the match performance, Essex were bowled out for 131 to give Somerset a 14 run victory.