Glos lose West County derby by 80 runs

9 June 2023

Will Smeed produced a blistering knock of 94 from 35 balls to propel top-of-the-table Somerset to an 80-run Vitality Blast win over West Country rivals Gloucestershire at the Seat Unique Stadium.

The England Lions batter dominated a brilliant opening stand of 122 in 10 overs with Tom Banton, accruing 8 sixes and 8 fours, as Somerset ran up 231-4, their best ever total in matches against Gloucestershire and the third highest recorded in any T20 fixture at Bristol.

Chasing such a huge total proved beyond a Gloucestershire side missing several key players through injury, the hosts being dismissed for 151 in 19 overs, despite a spirited knock of 61 from Miles Hammond, who shared in a stand of 75 for the second wicket with Ben Charlesworth.

Roelof van de Merwe and Josh Davey claimed 3-25 and 2-23 respectively to derail the reply, while off spinner Shoaib Bashir went through the tail to finish with 3-26 as Gloucestershire lost their last nine wickets for just 52 runs.

This was Somerset's seventh win in eight South Group matches this summer and victory over their neighbours served to maintain their advantage over nearest rivals Surrey and Hampshire. Beaten in four of their seven fixtures, Gloucestershire have a good deal of ground to make up if they are to challenge for a quarter-final place.

Having played himself into form when making 52 against Hampshire at Southampton last time out, Smeed picked up where he left off, treating a full-house audience to an astonishing display of clean hitting after Somerset had been put in.

The 21-year-old right-hander was particularly severe on Gloucestershire's spinners, greeting Zafar Gohar with a huge six over backward square leg in the third over. He repeated the shot at the expense of Matt Taylor in the next over, while Banton drove Zafar and Taylor down the ground for four to give the powerplay lift-off.

Veteran left arm seamer David Payne managed to restore some sanity to proceedings in two overs with the new ball that cost just 10 runs, but Smeed launched a terrible assault upon Tom Smith, plundering a quartet of fours and a six to race to a 21-ball 50 at the end of an over that spawned 24 runs as the visitors raised 62 from the powerplay.

There was no respite for the bowlers, Smeed welcoming Danny Lamb with a towering six backward of square and then helping himself to another maximum, smashing the Lancastrian over long-on. Desperate to break the opening partnership, Gloucestershire skipper Jack Taylor called himself into the attack to bowl the ninth over, only to see his first delivery dispatched over long-on for six and his second put away through mid-wicket for four. When Banton hoisted him high over the long-on boundary, Somerset had raised 100 inside nine overs.

In attempting to post a hundred inside 10 overs, Smeed blotted his copybook, attempting to hit Zafar over deep square for six, only to fall short and hole out to Matt Taylor, much to the relief of Gloucestershire's players and supporters. Having held sway for 36 murderous minutes, the opener finished with 8 sixes and 8 fours, coming agonisingly close to registering what would have been a spectacular 35-ball century. Smeed has now been dismissed in the nineties on five occasions during his career.

Cast in the unaccustomed role of supporting act, Banton went in the very next over, falling to a brilliant catch by wicketkeeper James Bracey and departing for a run-a-ball 26 with the score still on 122. If Gloucestershire believed their troubles were behind them, they were quickly disabused of the idea when Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Tom Abell added 40 in 3.5 overs for the third wicket, maintaining Somerset's impressive momentum.

Hard-hitting Kohler-Cadmore struck 30 from 15 balls with 4 fours and a six before taking on Zafar once too often and being held on the mid-wicket boundary by Miles Hammond. Gloucestershire stuck to their task manfully, Ollie Price bowling Abell in the act of sweeping to reduce the visitors to 173-4 in the 16th over.

Although Somerset raised 200 inside 18 overs, the record score for a T20 match at Bristol - 242 made by Gloucestershire against Middlesex in 2018 - was always likely to prove beyond them. Nevertheless, Lewis Gregory and Sean Dickson gave it their best shot, staging a frenzied unbeaten alliance of 58 in 24 balls for the fifth wicket as the home side wilted under pressure. Gregory mustered a brace of sixes and fours in scoring 30 from 13 balls, while Dickson's 28 occupied 17 balls.

Payne showed what was possible by sending down four overs for 25, but it was a painful experience for some of his teammates, Lamb conceding 53 from three overs and Smith 36 from two as Gloucestershire came under sustained heavy bombardment.

Craig Overton dismissed Ben Wells in the third over to render Gloucestershire's task even more difficult, but Hammond and Charlesworth matched one another blow for blow as the reply passed 50 inside five overs. The powerplay yielded 63 and the 50 partnership arrived via 33 balls as the second wicket pair served notice of their determination to make a game of it. 

Just when Somerset needed to effect a breakthrough, Davey obliged, removing Charlesworth and Ollie Price with successive deliveries in the tenth over. Charlesworth had scored 41 from 25 balls and helped add 75 with Hammond, when he was held at long-on, while Davey took a fine return catch to account for Price via a leading edge as the hosts reached the halfway point of their innings on 100-3.

Hammond continued to issue defiance, going to 50 from 28 balls, but he chanced his arm once too often when attempting to hit Roelof van de Merwe over long-on and instead holed out to Overton. When Jack Taylor fell later in the same over, Gloucestershire were 124-5, requiring a notional 108 runs from 44 balls, and the outcome was beyond doubt.

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