Myburgh improves Somerset fortunes
Somerset 166 for 5 (Myburgh 63, Smith 2-23) beat Gloucestershire 165 for 8 (Klinger 44) by five wickets
It is hard to walk around Bristol and not see something about the NatWest T20 Blast. Billboards, bus stations and, most conspicuously, the train station are laden with advertising for the season. "T20 cricket in the heart of Bristol" they read - and this west country derby felt like a culmination of that concerted marketing push.
Although the result was unlikely to dampen the fervour of a raucous crowd it was Somerset, with a canny performance with the ball and a powerful one with the bat, who delivered a painful blow to Gloucestershire's season by chasing their target with five wickets and two balls to spare. Johann Myburgh's 50-ball 63 anchored Somerset's chase but Max Waller, Sohail Tanvir and Jim Allenby deserve enormous credit for their frugal bowling that set up Somerset's win.
Somerset had won five of their last six away matches in Bristol and, in front of a sell-out crowd and apartment balconies teeming with fans, their quality set them apart from Gloucestershire as they just edged them in all three departments and held their nerve at the pivotal moments.
Back-to-back sixes clubbed by Tom Cooper in the penultimate over of Somerset's run chase with 19 required from 11 and consecutive wides bowled by James Fuller in the final over will be looked back on as match-deciding, and that they were in a chase that became far more tense than it need have been, but Somerset were ahead of the match from the start.
The Powerplay, plundered for 59 for 1 by Somerset in comparison to Gloucestershire's 37 for 1, represented the difference between the two teams. On a pitch that was perhaps harder to bat on than first impressions suggested, with the ball seaming and beating the edge, Allenby and Myburgh used their feet excellently in the initial overs, forcing Gloucestershire to adjust their lengths. Earlier, Gloucestershire, perhaps overwhelmed by the occasion or taken aback by a pitch not quite as true as they had imagined, allowed Somerset to dictate terms with the ball.
Allenby, Tanvir and Gregory bowled five outstanding overs at the start of the match, keeping tight lines and using canny cutters. Peter Handscomb fell for a seven-ball duck and Michael Klinger, in such rich T20 form, was also effectively tied down.
Although 15 was taken from the last over of the Powerplay, Klinger and Ian Cockbain were unable to truly break free. The closest they came to doing so was when Cockbain swatted a short ball bowled by Gregory straight down the ground for six. Unfazed, Gregory banged the following ball in halfway down the pitch and Cockbain, unable to get on top of it, was caught well in the deep.
Waller's superb spell of 4-0-21-1 kept Gloucestershire down in the middle overs. Delivering a plethora of googlies, which cramped the batsmen for room, and varying his pace and angles expertly, Waller broke Gloucestershire's rhythm, and deserved more than just the one wicket he took when Geraint Jones top-edged a slog sweep high in the air.
Waller's pressure no doubt contributed to the downfall of Klinger, who was dismissed by Allenby for 44 when he was caught on the boundary off a low full toss. When Kieran Noema-Barnett fell for 6, Gloucestershire were 115 for 5 with just 27 deliveries remaining.
However,three sixes, two fours, and some frantic running from Gloucestershire's lower order squeezed an impressive 42 from the final 18 deliveries to elevate the home side to 165 for 8, a score that was perhaps a tad under par but certainly defendable.
Somerset were without Chris Gayle, now at the Caribbean Premier League, and Marcus Trescothick, who was officially rested, but the lack of star-quality made little difference to events as Allenby launched into some loose bowling early on, plundering six boundaries in his 27.
It is to Gloucestershire's credit that they never let things run out of control, with the required run rate remaining above seven and climbing steadily from the 11th over until the 18th. Spinners Tom Smith and Jack Taylor both bowled excellently, conceding no more than six runs per over. Like Somerset, they bowled very straight and relatively flat.
Myburgh, a small man, was inconspicuous as Allenby muscled the ball away in the Powerplay, but his innings proved pivotal - no other Somerset batsman managed more than 27. Wickets fell at regular intervals but Myburgh remained until as late as the 18th over when he was brilliantly caught by Handscomb. A lively crowd rose once again to fever pitch as they sensed the possibility of a late and dramatic shift but it never came as Somerset claimed a deserved victory.
Freddie Wilde is a freelance T20 journalist. @fwildecricket