Nick Compton guides Somerset into quarter-finals
NICK Compton narrowly missed out on one key personal milestone at New Road earlier in the season. But he was able to finish the job required of him by his team yesterday as he fired Somerset to a home Friends Life t20 quarter-final.
The Somerset batsman was stranded 50 short of 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May as the rain fell at Worcester on May 31 – before going on to smash through the barrier the following day.
The ground and the opposition may have been the same yesterday – and, although the format was entirely different, Compton helped ensure Somerset will face Essex at Taunton in the quarter-finals on July 24 or 25.
Compton top-scored with 42 not out from 54 balls as Somerset beat Worcestershire by seven wickets and with seven balls to spare to secure their place at the top of the Midlands/Wales/West Group table.
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Victory was required for a place in their fourth successive domestic Twenty20 quarter-final after back-to-back defeats to Gloucestershire and Worcestershire had put previously-unbeaten Somerset under unnecessary pressure.
But their response at New Road was superb. Having won the toss and elected to field, Alfonso Thomas' side – aided by 3-30 from Albie Morkel – limited Worcestershire to 119-7, before reaching 120-3 in 18.5 overs.
Compton shared in stands of 33 with Richard Levi (19) and an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 59 with James Hildreth, who scored 35 not out from 30 balls and stepped up the tempo just when it was required.
"We needed to bounce back and bounce back quickly – and the way the bowlers went about it, with early wickets, set us up nicely," said Compton.
On his breezy start of 13 off eight balls, the opener said: "I probably get more criticism for not starting like a train, so it was nice to get a couple away early on. I like to bat and take on the responsibility, so it suited me today.
"It was nice to have a couple of partners, with Richard Levi and then Hildy. I think it was important that I tried to stay in and the other guys pushed on a bit – and Hildy did that brilliantly at the end.
"It's another quarter-final for us and how we got there doesn't really matter, we're there and we've got to play well now. It was just about getting the job done."
Somerset got off to a good start when Vikram Solanki got a leading edge to Morkel and fell to a sublime diving catch from Kevin O'Brien for six in the third over – before fellow dangerman Moeen Ali was held by the same fielder at mid-on for 17 off Lewis Gregory.
When James Cameron prodded outside the off-stump to Thomas and edged to Pete Trego in the slips for four, Worcestershire were 36-3 in the sixth over.
Phil Hughes was the one constant for Worcestershire, scoring an unbeaten 45 off 50 balls, but the hosts were slow to score, and, although Max Waller went for 12 in the 13th over, Morkel took two wickets in the 15th, with Daryl Mitchell (19) falling to a brilliant diving catch from Hildreth and Gareth Andrew skewing a drive to Thomas at mid-on for a golden duck.
Alexei Kervezee fell to a run-out, thanks to Waller's superb throw after initially fumbling, before Ben Scott (19) tried to scoop Thomas and only managed to find O'Brien, who took his third catch.
Somerset were never in much trouble chasing 120 for victory. Levi got them off to a strong start, hitting Andrew for three successive boundaries before holing out to Ali for 19 off the next ball.
The recalled Trego nicked behind for four off Jack Shantry, before Jos Buttler – after driving Mitchell for a huge six – was judged lbw to Ali for 13.
The run-rate briefly crept up to more than six an over – but an excellent reverse-sweep from Compton in the 15th over and a pulled six from Hildreth in the 16th got the visitors back on track, before three Hildreth boundaries in the space of 11 balls saw Somerset home.
Somerset face South Africa today in a two-day tour match at Taunton (10am), in which both sides will be able to field up to 16 players. Somerset will be without the injured Steve Kirby, while Alfonso Thomas could also be rested. Gemaal Hussain, Jamie Overton and Craig Overton are expected to figure at some stage.
Director of cricket Brian Rose, meanwhile, has been assured by Abdur Rehman's agent that the Pakistan spinner is "100 per cent committed" to honouring his contract at Somerset.
The 32-year-old has signed for Somerset for the remainder of the LV= County Championship season – subject to securing a visa – but had been linked with a stint in the Sri Lankan Premier League 20-over competition at the same time.