Somerset left again with blood, sweat and tears
Hampshire 126 for 4 (Ervine 34*) beat Somerset 125 for 6 (Kieswetter 63*, Mascarenhas 2-11) by six wickets
Somerset brought in a sports psychologist to try to end their losing run in one-day finals. John Pits has worked extensively with Marcus Trescothick as he kept his stress-related illness at bay and is highly respected. But as Somerset failed again, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that when it comes to FLt20 Finals Day, life is still the pits.
Somerset had enough history stacked against them to daunt an army of psychologists. They had lost five cup finals in the past two seasons - beaten in the last three FLt20 finals as well as a couple of CB40s. "To win the final, you first have to win the semi-final," Pits had reminded them. This time they did not even manage that, losing by six wickets with an over to spare. Hampshire secured a final against Yorkshire, with both sides qualifying for the Champions League in South Africa in October as a consequence.
No side had ever made fewer runs than Somerset on Twenty20 Finals Day. No side had ever successfully defended such a meagre total in a semi-final. Two battle-hardened cricketers, Simon Katich and Sean Ervine, quietly shared an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 54 from 40 balls to guide Hampshire home with no fuss. Somerset needed miracles from Alfonso Thomas, instead he was just back from hamstring trouble and his four overs cost 40.
"It is dreadful," said Trescothick. "There is so much time and effort goes in, so much dedication and practice and blood, sweat and tears that you do behind the scenes. We keep putting ourselves in a position to be shot down. At the moment we are not quite achieving what we know we can. At some point we will get it right, I'm sure."
Craig Kieswetter had politely suggested on the eve of the final, that Somerset had lost so often that it was "no longer an elephant in the room". They had been to the Champions League last year, reached the semi-final and, by implication, felt good about themselves.
But a whole herd of elephants were soon trampling around the Swalec Stadium, half the side gone for 58 by the 13th over and only Kieswetter himself left to trumpet defiantly that history did not matter. He finished with 63 not out from 58 balls and when he slipped while facing the penultimate ball, from Chris Wood, and snookered it through point for four, Somerset were literally and metaphorically on their knees.
The craft of Dimitri Mascarenhas gave Hampshire a flying start. Richard Levi, the big-hitting South African, was beguiled by Mascarenhas' first ball, failing to slog it over the infield. With the third ball of his second over, Mascarenhas added Marcus Trescothick, who had deposited Liam Dawson over the ropes at long-on but who looked more cumbersome as he dragged on a wide one.
Danny Briggs, Hampshire's left-arm spinner is a throwback to another age, performing with grace and finesse even in such a feverish atmosphere. James Hildreth, so often a disappointment when it matters, swept at Briggs and was bowled behind his legs.
It took only one fleet-footed six over long-on by Jos Buttler for Hampshire to withdraw Briggs from the attack. Sean Ervine, his replacement, seamed deliveries back to cause Buttler to chop on and then have Peter Trego, another big hitter, lbw dragging to leg; he was so disorientated that he silenced Ervine's triumphant appeal with a collision as he sought a desperate single.
Kieswetter's first 24 encompassed 32 balls without a single boundary, and Somerset had only 40 balls remaining to swell a meagre 58 for 5 when he summoned a response and deposited Liam Dawson's into the River Taff. But Lewis Gregory's run-out attempting a second to Jimmy Adams at long-off summed up that nothing would come easily.
Yorkshire's 171 in the first semi-final had perhaps brought exaggerated expectations, but not that exaggerated; it was a paltry total to defend and Somerset knew it.
When Michael Carberry took three boundaries from the first over, from Thomas, the first of them flying between wicketkeeper and slip, it looked smaller than ever. A gripping pitch made it a day for spinners and cutters, but Somerset's spinning ranks were depleted with the absence of George Dockrell, who has been on Under-19 World Cup duty for Ireland and was playing in an 11th-place play-off against Scotland on Friday. Max Waller's legspin removed James Vince, bowled by one that hurried through but Hampshire retained control.
Carberry's run out, after making 33 from 27 balls, enlivened Somerset's spirits, Kieswetter responding alertly to get the ball to the non-striker's end when Neil McKenzie dabbed on the off side and changed his mind about a single. Briefly, the chants of the Cidermen filled the air but Somerset were defeated, the apple crop is down, and in the West Country there was little reason for song.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo