Jos Buttler keeps his nerve to secure a thrilling victory for Somerset
NO Marcus Trescothick, no Craig Kieswetter, no Richard Levi, no Albie Morkel – no problem.
Jos Buttler, at the grand old age of 21, played a responsible yet dynamic knock of 58 not out from 38 balls to carry Somerset to a five-wicket victory over Northamptonshire at Taunton with a ball to spare.
Northamptonshire's 137-5, with former Somerset favourite Cameron White top-scoring with 47 not out and George Dockrell taking 2-17 from his four overs, appeared a little light, even on a tricky Taunton pitch.
But Somerset made heavy work of reaching their total, with Buttler and Arul Suppiah requiring 29 off the final three overs to win.
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When James Middlebrook conceded 11 runs off the 18th over, Somerset still had a fair bit to do – but Buttler audaciously scooped successive Chaminda Vaas deliveries for four to end the penultimate over, leaving his side requiring seven to win off the final six deliveries.
Suppiah hit the winning runs, cutting David Willey for four to the penultimate ball of the match, to keep Somerset's unbeaten start to this year's Friends Life t20 in tact.
Buttler, having made his one-day international against Pakistan in Dubai in February, was recently left out of the ODI squad to face West Indies – but his match-winning innings in front of the Sky cameras will not have gone unnoticed by the England selectors.
"I think I'd have been surprised to be called up to the ODI squad," said Buttler. "It's something I want to be a part of – but not this time, so I'll try to keep putting in performances for Somerset and keep knocking on the door. That's all you can do.
"It was a bit tricky on a used pitch, which was nearly 80 overs old, and it was a tricky target to chase down. They had a competitive total and some experienced bowlers, so it was always going to be difficult, but I thought we had it under control."
Speaking of the two scooped boundaries, the shot made famous by Tillakaratne Dilshan and now an essential part of Buttler's limited-overs armoury, he said: "They were 100 per cent premeditated – but it's something I practice a lot.
"It's a huge part of my game and I think you need to be able to do that against a yorker. I'm really pleased that they came off, but I am pretty confident with it."
Suppiah, left out of Somerset's Twenty20 opener against Warwickshire last week, also played a key part in the successful run-chase, unbeaten on 14 from nine balls – and was praised by his batting partner.
"Arul batted brilliantly – he came in with a really calm head and played some really strong shots," said Buttler.
Northants won the toss and chose to bat – but Somerset tied them down to 36-3 inside the opening seven hours. Kyle Coetzer was held by Max Waller at cover off Dockrell's bowling for eight, Rob Newton was caught-and-bowled by Suppiah for 15 and Niall O'Brien tried to reverse-sweep Dockrell and was held by his brother, Kevin O'Brien, also for eight.
White and Alex Wakely put on 39 in 5.1 overs for the fourth wicket, before the latter nicked behind to Buttler off Waller, and Con de Lange picked out Craig Meschede at long-on to give O'Brien a wicket with his first ball for Somerset.
But David Willey scored a quickfire 30 not out to help White, who hit the only six of Northamptonshire's innings, put on an unbroken stand of 52 for the last wicket.
The wicket, however, was no typical Taunton belter – and Somerset faced a difficult chase, losing Nick Compton for five in the third over. Pete Trego was out for 16 when he was bowled by James Middlebrook with the Somerset tally on 42 and a few specs of rain causing supporters to anxiously view the rising Duckworth-Lewis rate.
But the game was not interrupted by rain, and O'Brien thumped a huge six en route to a 20-ball 21, before becoming Middlebrook's second victim when he tried to hit the ball over extra cover and was caught by Rob Keogh.
Buttler and Hildreth put on 41 for the fourth wicket, with Hildreth falling for 14 to a wonderful sliding catch from Keogh in the deep off Jack Brooks, while Meschede was out for a duck, before Buttler – with a little help from Suppiah – took his side to victory with one ball to spare.