de Villiers, van Wyk down Somerset
The Eagles aren't going to make many friends in English county cricket. The South African side, who progressed this far after a thrilling win over Sussex, showed excellent control in sealing a five-wicket win in Hyderabad, one that pushed the other county team to the brink of elimination. Morne van Wyk and Ryan Bailey played crucial roles with the bat after CJ de Villiers starred with the ball in the afternoon and the team picked up two points from this win.
The tone was set after Justin Langer opted to bat. de Villiers, who sealed the Eagles' promotion in the one-over eliminator against Sussex, raced through two wickets in his first over. Somerset slumped to 52 for 5 in nine overs and relied on their club's record sixth-wicket partnership of 77 charged by Wes Durston, but a target of 133 proved easy for Eagles.
Marcus Trescothick's sudden return to England forced Craig Kieswetter to open, but he didn't go much further than two streaky boundaries. In a double-wicket opening over, de Villiers began by trapping Kieswetter right in front and a wide later Arul Suppiah, stuck on the crease, missed the ball and was done in by the angle.
That over brought Zander de Bruyn to the middle with the need to add some solidity to the innings. It was not to be, as he swatted an ugly heave straight to mid-off to gift de Villiers a third, and Thandi Tshabalala spun one past Langer's bat first ball to add to Somerset's woes. When Peter Trego was stunningly held by Alan Kruger in his first over, diving to his left to pluck a return catch, Somerset were staring down a tunnel.
Step up Durston. From the get-go he ticked along nicely, just dabbing and deflecting until he clobbered Ryan McLaren for three fours in a row in the 15th over and repeated the feat when de Villiers returned for the 17th, racing past fifty in just 26 balls. The arc between point and third man proved a profitable area for James Hildreth, who slashed and edged with perfection for 33 runs in that region. Apart from one edge, Durston's shots were crisp and calculated; when the fast bowlers offered room he was keen to steer and run the ball fine. It was a controlled yet rapid innings, and the spark the innings desperately needed.
After bowling the most expensive over of the innings, de Villiers hit back, bowling a maiden in the 19th over - a rarity in Twenty20 format - to finish with 4 for 17, the best figures of the tournament. The last two overs yielded just two leg byes and a single, as the Eagles limited the damage, and that ultimately proved crucial.
Chasing 133 proved easy enough in the end, but Somerset made inroads early. Rilee Roussow, whose splendid half-century was pivotal against Sussex, looked intent on showing his aggressive side but miscued to mid-on off Charl Willoughby, and Adrian McLaren's poor run was extended when he top-edged to short fine leg. Two ugly dismissals were followed by a soft offering from Boeta Dippenaar, sashaying down to the spin of Max Waller and picking out long-off.
With his captain gone for 18, van Wyk - who at this stage had eased to 29 from 26 - steered the chase and gained useful help from Bailey's 29. van Wyk, who struck four fours and a six, was particularly strong working the ball to the leg side, but also played some fine checked drives to trouble Somerset. He was shaping to take the Eagles to victory, but top-edged Alfonso Thomas and was well held by a running and diving Kieswetter for 47. Bailey went soon after but victory was achieved with eight balls remaining.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo