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Alex Winter at New Road
July 8, 2012
Somerset 120 for 3 (Compton 42*) beat Worcestershire 119 for 7 (Hughes 45*, Morkel 3-30) by seven wickets
Somerset have enjoyed regular success in the Friends Life t20, albeit not having lifted the trophy since 2005. Their batting line-up suggests they should sweep all before them. Here they were facing a must-win tie on a pitch not conducive to big hitting but got the job done to advance to the quarter-finals, where they have drawn Essex. They even allowed themselves a second verse of The Wurzels' The Blackbird, their victory song.
Despite losing, Worcestershire also went through as one of the two best third-placed sides and will now play Yorkshire at Headingley.
It was a pitch typical of a riverside ground with an exceptionally high water level: pretty slow and tacky but it gave the impression of being a touch two-paced. The outfield was also soft and bumpy and it made for anti-T20, with runs being ground out against slow bowling. Much credit is due to the groundstaff for getting the game on - a washout would have seen both teams qualify regardless of results elsewhere.
The situation was tailor-made for Nick Compton. He controlled the small chase. Compton's season began prolifically when most other batsman around the country struggled. His solid technique and ability to stay patient and build an innings were the basis for his early-season form, which nearly saw him make a thousand runs before the end of May. It was on this ground where his pursuit of the feat was ended cruelly by the weather.
Here again the weather briefly threatened to derail Somerset's progress but Compton's correct attributes enabled the visitors to carefully pick off the target. Having someone bat through is often required to marshal a small chase. Compton was the lynchpin, with an unbeaten 42 from 54-balls, holding the rudder steady to take Somerset through.
"The bowlers bowled very well and the spinners got the pace of the wicket," Compton said. "I don't think the wicket was that bad, it was a little bit tackier for them, which allowed us to get through a few overs at the start. But when I came into bat with pace on the ball it actually came through quite nicely. When they took pace off the ball it was difficult.
"It was nice to get a couple away early, I tend to get criticised for not going off like a train. But it suited me today, I like to take responsibility and it was important that I stayed until the end."
The difficulty of the surface was no more evident than in the first wicket of the match to fall: Vikram Solanki through with his stroke far too soon and providing a leading edge to mid-off. Conditions made getting away Somerset's spinners - George Dockrell and Max Waller - very difficult. The pair proved the most successful bowlers, sending down seven overs between them for just 33.
It was a work-it-around innings. There was a brief late flurry with Ben Scott's 14-ball 19 but not enough batsman were able to play around Phil Hughes' 50-ball 45 - his Compton innings. But it was hard to know what a competitive score was batting first.
Worcestershire managed to take the chase all the way to the penultimate over but while Compton was at the crease Somerset always looked likely to get over the line. He stuck four boundaries in the first five overs but then found the rope only once more, working the ball around and allowing his more aggressive partners to try and clear the ropes.
It was difficult, though, as Moeen Ali's offspin took up much of the middle of the innings, conceding only 13 in his four overs and ending Jos Buttler's run-a-ball knock. Left-armer David Lucas also returned for two tight overs, as the hosts tried to create a nervous ending - not knowing results elsewhere were in their favour.
But what they needed defending a small score was wickets and Worcestershire couldn't find enough of them. Somerset had two much in the armoury and when things began to get close, James Hildreth played a busy innings that was excellent considering the surface. He broke the back of the chase with three swift boundaries: reverse-sweeping Brett D'Oliveria, then taking successive Gareth Andrew deliveries over the leg side.
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