Pollard, Buttler take Somerset through
Somerset 172 for 4 (Kieswetter 49, Pollard 47*, Buttler 34*) beat Nottinghamshire 169 for 5 (Hales 78, Gregory 2-35, Thomas 2-35) by five wickets
Kieron Pollard will probably never win over all his critics. Some doubt his technique; some doubt his temperament and some are just plain jealous. But whatever the 24-year-old Trinidadian Pollard does or doesn't achieve in international cricket or even at first-class level, he really is a devastating Twenty20 cricketer.
Here, in partnership with the equally impressive Jos Buttler, Pollard helped Somerset snatch victory from a Nottinghamshire team that had been in control throughout this quarter-final. As a result it is Somerset and not Nottinghamshire that will be at Edgbaston for Finals Day on August 27.
The pair thumped 66 runs in 26 balls, with Pollard's savagery complemented by Buttler's subtlety, as Somerset sealed a six-wicket victory with five deliveries to spare. The pair thrashed six sixes and six fours between them as a Nottinghamshire attack, immaculate up to that point, suddenly wilted under pressure when it mattered most.
To be fair to the hosts, batsmen such as Pollard and Buttler, players who hit decent deliveries to or even over the boundary, can intimidate bowlers. Buttler moves across his stumps and plays the scoop shot over fine leg so effectively that even yorkers can be hit for six, while Pollard's immense strength and bat speed mean there is no margin for error for any bowler. Even Andre Adams, so often the leader of this Notts attack, was plundered for 20 in an over as his attempted yorkers became juicy full tosses. And no-one hits a full toss harder - or further - than Pollard.
Perhaps Nottinghamshire really lost this game between the 10th and 14th overs of their own innings. While they accumulated nicely enough to score 32 runs in those five overs, they lacked the power hitting that so benefited Somerset. Subtlety is all well and good, but Twenty20 cricket is more about the sledgehammer than the suggestion.
Until that point, Alex Hales had been progressing well. The 22-year-old, who really must be close to selection for one of the England limited-overs squads, played particularly well off the back foot, hitting three sixes including one pull off Pollard that cleared the Fox Road Stand.
Until Chris Read, a hugely under-rated limited-overs 'finisher', came to the crease in the 17th over, however, no-one else in the Notts side could bat with the required urgency. Samit Patel and Adam Voges scored at a run a ball, which just isn't enough, and Adams' perky contribution came too late to make a difference.
Somerset were not, perhaps, absolutely at their best with the ball. But their fielding was excellent - head and shoulders above anything seen in Saturday's quarter-final at Grace Road, while their spinners ensured Nottinghamshire's total never grew unassailable. Arul Suppiah, in particular, impressed in conceding just 13 from his three overs.
Still, the way Nottinghamshire's bowlers began, it seemed Somerset wouldn't get anywhere near their target. Luke Fletcher, who earlier this season was suspended when a night of drinking went a little too far, bowled an immaculate first spell. Fletcher, ignoring the overdone fashion for endless slower balls and variations, produced yorker after yorker, eventually forcing Marcus Trescothick into a desperate scoop shot that resulted in a brilliant one-handed catch by Adams at fine leg.
Craig Kieswetter and Peter Trego kept Somerset in the chase but, when the former drove to mid-off and the latter was drawn down the wicket and beaten by turn, it left Somerset requiring 64 from the final 31 balls.
Perhaps, had Riki Wessels hung on to a desperately tough chance at point offered by Buttler when the batsman had just 14, Notts might have held on. But, as it was, Buttler and Pollard brought up their 50 stand in just 18 balls, with Pollard driving Patel for one huge six into the top of the Radcliffe Road Stand and Buttler scooping a perfectly respectable Darren Pattinson delivery for six over fine leg. If Notts looked a little ragged in the closing moments, it's only because the batting tore them apart.
There was just a moment of silliness between Pollard and Fletcher, when the pair seemed to barge one another and exchange harsh words, but hands were shaken and apologies made afterwards and it would be a shame if a minor incident were to detract from another highly entertaining - and high quality - game of cricket.
This result leaves Nottinghamshire with just an outside chance of CB40 success to sustain any trophy hopes in the closing weeks of the season. As a result, Voges now heads back to Australia so Notts hope to replace him as an overseas player within the next few days. Darren Bravo is understood to be in line to replace him.
Somerset, meanwhile, could yet win all three trophies. After their unfortunate finish to the 2010 season, few would resent them some success. But, before Somerset supporters grow too excited about the prospect of the Champions League, it's worth remembering that they would, almost certainly, have to do without Trescothick, Kieswetter, Pollard, Thomas and Kartik if they qualified. All are likely to be either unavailable or required by other teams.