James Hildreth hopes to keep Somerset CCC T20 place after century against Welsh Dragons
James Hildreth admitted it had been difficult to take being left out of the Somerset side for their Friends Life t20 opener – but hopes his match-winning century against Welsh Dragons was the perfect response.
The 27-year-old, a mainstay of the Somerset team in all forms of the game since making his debut in 2003, was dropped for the first time for his side’s 63-run win over Warwickshire at Taunton 12 days ago.
But, with Somerset missing six regular players for Friday’s Midlands/Wales/West group game against Welsh Dragons, Hildreth found the perfect time to produce his career-best Twenty20 knock.
He scored 107 not out from 60 balls as Somerset recovered from 2-2 and 24-3 to successfully surpass the Dragons’ 178-5 with one ball and four wickets left.
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Somerset, who welcome back Richard Levi, Albie Morkel, George Dockrell and Kevin O’Brien for tomorrow’s trip to Northamptonshire, lead their group after making an unbeaten start.
And, when asked about being left out of the opening game of the Twenty20 campaign, Hildreth said: “I found it difficult. It was probably the first time in my career I’ve been dropped from a team.
“We obviously signed three batsmen and we’ve already got some big-hitters in the team. But I did find it difficult and I had to find a way of proving my point.
“I knew I’d get a chance, because lads are coming and going with England and other international commitments, so I knew I’d get an opportunity. Hopefully I’ve taken it, so maybe I’ll play in the future.”
Hildreth’s previous best T20 score was 77 not out, which came against Kent in 2010, but he smashed that record with a six and 15 fours in Friday’s four-wicket victory.
“That’s easily my highest score in Twenty20 cricket, which is probably my weakest format generally,” said Hildreth. “I’ve worked hard on the areas I need to improve to score more quickly, which sometimes I have found quite difficult.
“It’s an area of the game I need to work on the most. I feel most comfortable in four-day cricket – and in 40-over cricket you have a bit more time to get yourself in, whereas in Twenty20, you need to go from the off almost.
“In the past, I’ve sometimes struggled with getting off to quick starts and then kicking on. On Friday, I tried to work the gaps more than go for the big swipes across the line, which I know doesn’t work for me.
“But, to be honest, a score like that was looking a long way off at the beginning of this Twenty20 tournament.”
Glamorgan, inspired by a 52-ball 85 from Shaun Marsh, posted 178-5 from their 20 overs despite some tight bowling from Steve Kirby, who took 1-19 from his four overs.
Somerset looked in trouble when they lost Pete Trego (one) and Craig Meschede for a duck inside the opening two overs – and, when Nick Compton fell for 12 in the fifth, they were in real trouble.
A 66-run stand between Hildreth and Jos Buttler in 6.5 overs brought the hosts back into the game – but when they lost Arul Suppiah (18) and Steve Snell (four) they needed more than 12 an over to win.
The turning point was the 17th over, bowled by James Harris, which went for 24 as Hildreth scored five fours, a two and also benefited from a no-ball. Ten runs were needed off the final over – and when Lewis Gregory, who finished on 14 not out from five balls, smashed a six into the Colin Atkinson pavilion, Somerset were all but home. The 20-year-old then scored the match-winning four with one ball remaining.
“We’ve found a formula that works for us in Twenty20 cricket and we’re going to keep backing all of our players,” said Hildreth.
“We know that everyone in our squad, at some point, can put their hand up and win a game of cricket for us, which is a great feeling to have.
“We’re not relying on one person every game to win it for us. We’re looking pretty good at the moment.”