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Somerset get lift-off as Gayle lights the afterburners

Somerset 181 for 3 (Gayle 49) beat Essex 178 for 7 (ten Doeschate 47, Westley 40) by seven wickets
Scorecard

Chris Gayle marked his return to Taunton with a typically flamboyant innings as Somerset won a T20 Blast game for the first time this season.

After missing out at Hove, against Sussex on Wednesday, Gayle struck 49 off 23 balls, to leave Essex nursing a seven wicket defeat - their second of the season.

Gayle, who lit up the west country last year with 328 runs in his three T20 games, was at it again as Somerset chased down 179 inside 18 overs. He struck five fours and four sixes in a 23-ball knock that laid the foundation for a comfortable Somerset win.

Having invited Essex to bat, Somerset made an encouraging start when Jesse Ryder edged a rising delivery from Craig Overton to wicket keeper Ryan Davies.

Dan Lawrence made 22 before Max Waller held on to a sharp chance at backward point at 54 for 2 and Ravi Bopara followed at 67 for 3, caught on the long-off boundary by Mahela Jayawardene for 8.

Having been pegged back between overs six and 11, Essex re-established themselves thanks to a 24-run stand between Tom Westley and Ryan Ten Doeschate and 74, for the fifth wicket, between the free-hitting ten Doeschate and Ashar Zaidi.

The former was eventually caught by Waller, on the cover boundary, off the bowling of Jamie Overton at 165 for 6 before Zaidi departed off the next ball, caught at deep backward square for 31 off just 17 balls.

Essex finally reached 178 for 7 off their 20 overs with Lewis Gregory the pick of the Somerset bowlers with 2 for 25 off four overs.

Somerset made a surprisingly modest start with a dozen runs coming from the first two overs. However, after Gayle chipped Matt Quinn over midwicket for four, in the third over, the West Indian star began to play with a familiar freedom.

He struck two fours and three sixes off David Masters' second over and a six off Quinn that carried well over 100 yards, into the car park.

Sadly, for the 7000 Somerset supporters who had enjoyed the experience, Gayle eventually chipped a half volley to Lawrence off Wahab Riaz, at 75 for 1 in the seventh over.

With Gayle departed, captain Jim Allenby and Peter Trego took up the challenge and progressed well, adding 47 for the second wicket before the latter was caught on the long-on boundary for 34.

Jayawardene scored 6 before Masters found a way through his normally impeccable defence, at 129 for 3, and with Essex sensing an opportunity, Somerset started to show genuine signs of batting nerves.

However, Gregory changed the game in the 15th over with two fours and a six off Masters who finished with the unfortunate figures of 1 for 54 off four overs. In the end, an unbeaten fourth-wicket stand of 52 saw Somerset home with 13 balls to spare.