Bristling Somerset storm into final
Somerset 94 for 6 (Buttler 32, Tahir 2-20) tied Hampshire 138 for 4 (Afridi 80) (D/L method)
One-over Eliminator Somerset 16 for 0 beat Hampshire 5 for 1 by 11 runs
A Dominic Cork-inspired Hampshire very nearly hustled their way to their second successive Twenty20 final, but Somerset held their nerve in the second Super Over of what has already been a remarkable day to secure their passage to a showdown with Leicestershire and a trip to India for the Champions League in a month's time. Chasing a Duckworth/Lewis altered 95 in 10 overs, Somerset slipped to 50 for 3 as Hampshire's spinners threatened to take hold on a helpful surface.
Jos Buttler then entered to turn the game on its head, celebrating his call-up to England's Twenty20 squad by thrashing three crisp sixes in a 16-ball 32 that took Somerset to the very brink of victory. With just five needed from six balls Cork grabbed centre stage for himself, demonstrating both his enviable calmness under extreme pressure and streetwise tactical nous - breaking the batsman's rhythm with an extended team conference that lead to the positioning of a man at short leg - in a nerveless final over during which Hampshire, somehow, secured a tie when Somerset were in a seemingly impregnable position.
Ultimately, however, it was to be Somerset's day. Buttler and Craig Kieswetter calmly accumulated 16 from their Super Over, after which Alfonso Thomas's intelligent changes of length got the better of Shahid Afridi to keep Hampshire to just 5.
All of which rather drew the attention away from Afridi's earlier efforts, Hampshire's star overseas import slamming a 42-ball 80 to boost his team to a more-than-competitive 138 for 4 in the second rain-shortened match of the day. Afridi has had a disappointing run with the bat in this competition, having been used, more often than not, as an opener by Hampshire. He is a player who relishes the big stage, however, and today he soaked in the atmosphere and shrugged off two rain delays before four overs had been completed to steadily build Hampshire's momentum and boost them to what could well have been a match-winning total.
Summer showers repeatedly scudded across the ground and both early delays were mercifully short but it was still an unusually becalmed start from a batsman not known for taking his time at the crease. Murali Kartik and George Dockrell, Somerset's wily pair of left-arm spinners, were both treated with circumspection on first viewing and it was not until Afridi scythed medium-pacer Craig Meschede one-handed over cover for his first six that he really began to go through the gears.
Kartik was brought back in the seventh over and immediately dumped over the long-off boundary, Afridi's power ensuring the ball went the distance despite coming off the toe-end. Next to suffer was Arul Suppiah, his first over dispatched for 14 and his second bringing a 28-ball fifty for Afridi courtesy of a drilled cover drive - his fourth four.
A rapidly deflating Somerset were grateful for the wickets of James Vince (22) and Neil McKenzie (4) but while Afridi remained the boundary was always in danger. He took Hampshire's run rate above nine with two sixes in an over off Kieron Pollard - the first a monstrous blow that soared into the second tier of the stands behind long on, the second a disdainful flick with barely any backlift - and it looked as though Afridi could reach a century before he swiped at a Thomas in-ducker to be bowled in the 14th over.
Sean Ervine and Liam Dawson flailed with gusto but couldn't ping the boundary in the closing overs before the third and final rain interruption came, much to the chagrin of a crowd that was close to capacity. With just one delivery to be bowled, Duckworth/Lewis stepped in to readjust Hampshire's total.
Needing more than nine an over from the start, and with precious little time to settle at the crease, Marcus Trescothick launched Somerset's chase by shovelling the first ball, from Dimitri Mascarenhas, through extra cover for four. His rustic, stand-and-deliver approach blended well with Kieswetter's more light-footed swiping as Somerset stormed to 40 in the first three overs.
The introduction of spin in the form of left-arm spinner Danny Briggs brought an immediate change of fortunes, Kieswetter chipping straight to long-off, and when an exuberant Imran Tahir got the better of Pollard and Trescothick with consecutive deliveries Somerset were in some serious strife.
This was just the sort of situation that made Buttler's name, however, and he took on the spinners in sublime fashion, planting both Briggs and Tahir over long-on to revive his team before Cork's last gasp intervention brought a dramatic finale.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo