Thomas and Hildreth down Deccan in humdinger
"I can't believe I have done that," said an ecstatic Alfonso Thomas, who hit two boundaries in the last three deliveries of a thriller to steal and seal victory for Somerset. In a rollercoaster of a match, Somerset just about managed to hold their nerves courtesy a 50-run partnership for the eighth wicket between Thomas and James Hildreth to get past the line off the last ball of the match. The equation came down to five runs from three balls with one wicket left when Thomas sliced a full toss from Scott Styris - who had taken two wickets in the final over - to the deep point boundary before bringing up the win with another carve over point.
It was a strange but extremely interesting chase, and one that seemed to derail at various points as wickets fell at regular intervals. Crucially, Somerset managed to find the odd big hit that always kept them in the hunt. Rain intervened for a while, forcing the captains to regularly check the Duckworth-Lewis equation, and the drama increased when Fidel Edwards was prevented from completing his last two overs after he slipped in two beamers.
When the seventh wicket fell, Somerset still needed 55 from 37 balls but Thomas and Hildrith biffed a few boundaries against the spinners, who had done so well till then to get Deccan ahead, to get the equation down to 31 from 24. Deccan attacked with their seamers and Hildrith and Thomas started dealing in singles to slowly push Somerset ahead. The equation came down to nine from 10 balls after Thomas paddle-swept RP Singh over the short fine-leg fielder. When a yorker ran for three leg byes it seemed the game was over but there was one final twist left in this enthralling game.
With five needed from the last over, Styris bowled Hildreth first ball and then removed Max Waller off the third, but crucially for Somerset, Thomas had crossed over. And he finished the game in style.
Somerset did well in the end to get past the line but one sensed a bit of nerves in their approach to the chase especially after the raucous home crowd got into the game. Marcus Trescothick, playing his first game out of England in a while, fell after offering a fleeting glimpse of his talent with two crunchy upper cuts but some of the shots that followed his exit were almost needless: Zander de Bruyn attempted a thrash over covers and edged behind, Craig Kieswetter holed out to long-on, Peter Trego swung to deep midwicket, and even Justin Langer swatted a full delivery from well outside off to mid-on.
Not that they could have done it in singles but the run rate was never so daunting that they had to go for desperate hits. Once the top order fell, the bottom half swung their bat but lost wickets regularly till Thomas and Hildreth chose to stamp their presence in the game. The platform was laid earlier by their bowlers, with Thomas playing his part with an economical spell. VVS Laxman starred for Deccan with an uncharacteristic knock but they lost the plot in the middle and needed Venugopal Rao to push them just past 150.
You don't use adjectives like hammer and clobber to describe shots from Laxman but tonight he almost batted with a touch of violence. He charged down the track to the seamers, cleared the front foot and heaved across the line, moved outside leg and flat-batted length deliveries back past the startled bowlers and even tried an ugly hoick across the line.
That last shot captured his mood perfectly: Laxman edged a hoick to the fine-leg boundary and sported a lovely sheepish smile. It was exactly the sentiment that many of the viewers would have felt while watching this uncharacteristic innings. We might never know whether it was merely Laxman adjusting his game to this format after his county stint or whether it was about proving a point for being stripped of his IPL captaincy and dropped from many games in the last IPL. Whatever the intent was, it suited Deccan tonight as they got off to a racy start, but they were let down by the other batsmen.
Adam Gilchrist unfurled a few big hits but top-edged a pull shot and Andrew Symonds holed out to long-on. Laxman too slowed down a touch before he fell, going for yet another heave across the line and the scoring almost came to a pause as Trego starred with his economical medium pace and de Bruyn too did his bit to apply the squeeze.
Deccan crawled from 86 for 3 in 10 overs to 99 for 4 from 15 overs as Rohit Sharma and Styris tried to rebuild the innings all over again but both fell in quick succession and Deccan was restricted to a below-par score on a batting surface. None of the IPL teams have won a game so far in the Champions League Twenty20 and Somerset made sure the script didn't change tonight.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo