Somerset 312 for 6 beat Essex 217 by 95 runs
Marcus Trescothick led Somerset to a crushing 95-run win in a spicy encounter with Essex at Taunton to book his side a place in the Clydesdale Bank 40 final next Saturday at Lord's.
Batting first in front of a passionate and packed home crowd, Trescothick launched the innings with a Man-of-the-Match winning 79 from 62 deliveries and was supported by a muscular 55 from Nick Compton and three bright performances from James Hildreth, Jos Buttler and Arul Suppiah as Somerset's imposing 312 for 6 proved too much for Essex, despite a brave half-century from captain James Foster.
Somerset were clear favourites coming into the game and did not disappoint. While their young and talented line up has challenged for silverware in all three domestic competitions, Essex have been relegated from the First Division of the County Championship and lacked the class to really challenge the home side on the day.
The gulf between the sides was all too apparent after David Masters and Tony Palladrino's first three overs of the day disappeared for 29. The new-ball pair were both trundling in below 80mph and, with the fielding restrictions in place, Trescothick simply helped himself. He unleashed an array of trademark clunking off-drives and displayed some deft class with a couple of fours glided past short third man off the hapless Palladrino.
Having raced to 50 from 32 balls he looked set to make plenty more but was undone when a gentle off-cutter from Chris Wright snuck past the outside edge to rattle off stump. The glee on the face of the Essex fielders was surpassed only by their surprise as they hoped to stage a fightback.
It proved not to be, however, as from that point on Somerset's progress was relentless. Hildreth's prolific season continued with him running Essex ragged in partnership with Compton. He picked off five classy boundaries before spooning Danish Kaneria tamely to cover but the dismissal only heightened the visitor's pain by bringing Buttler to the crease.
Just 20 years old and in his first full season at Somerset, Buttler has saved his most impressive performances for the TV cameras this summer and once again was immediately into his audacious stride. Mirroring his captain's stillness and clarity at the crease he launched 36 from 21 balls, including a straight six off Ryan ten Doeschate that ended up on the roof of the stand behind the bowler's head. Somerset looked already to have too many before Arul Suppiah bludgeoned 42 from 23 balls in an innings that included two more enormous sixes off ten Deoschate. The late charge carried Somerset beyond 300 and out of sight.
Facing such an imposing total Essex needed a bright start to give them any semblance of hope. Instead they lost Mark Pettini to the first delivery of the innings, chipping a tame leading edge to mid-off off Alfonso Thomas. The innings went from bad to a lot worse in the sixth over as, in the space of two deliveries, Somerset demonstrated the well-honed professionalism that has underlined their whole season.
First Trescothick pulled off a blinding, one-handed catch diving to his left at short cover to remove Cook before ten Doeschate was run out next ball, risking a sharp single to Hildreth who swooped low and threw down the stumps in a flash to catch the speedy ten Doeschate short. Essex were reeling three down for 33 and the game looked in danger of slipping away quickly.
Grant Flower, in his last appearance for Essex after six seasons at the club tried his best to go out with a bang, smiting five boundaries before becoming the second of three run outs in the innings. Attempting a sharp second to Buttler on the square-leg boundary a rifle throw came in and caught him just short of his ground.
A brief revival came in the shape of the bulky Matt Walker and Foster. Suppiah was treated to some of the savage hitting he earlier dished out as Walker thumped a full toss out of the ground over deep square and deposited a length ball miles down the ground as Essex upped the rate. The bowler almost got his own back immediately but the catch Walker offered on the long-on boundary was spilled by Thomas.
Thomas then put down another, much tougher chance next ball, diving one-handed to his right at short third man off a top-edged cut from Foster, as the fifth-wicket pair brought up a 50 partnership off 32 deliveries and carried Essex to level par with Somerset by the 20th over. It became third time lucky for Thomas soon after, however, when he snaffled Walker's powerful sweep off Murali Kartik on the deep square-leg boundary and, tottering at 139 for 5, the game looked up.
Foster, though, had other ideas. He thrashed 12 off Kartik in the first over of the batting Powerplay before his adrenalin-fuelled charge was interrupted by a Thomas beamer in the next over. Though the bowler apologised immediately, Foster was furious and ended in up in a bug-eyed exchange with both Thomas and Trescothick.
Visibly riding on the drama of the occasion he brought up his fifty, off just 35 balls, by rocketing a drive through cover and when he struck another powerful boundary down the ground off Thomas, Essex might just have dared to dream of pulling off an incredible heist.
Instead Thomas had his final revenge as Foster tried one shot too many, trying to clear long-on only to offer Buttler a simple catch on the boundary. Thomas stood triumphant with his arms aloft but he even would concede it was a brilliant innings from Foster. The dismissal signalled the end of Essex's fight and they crumpled in a heap thereafter.
Somerset are still in the Championship title race and as the form side must go into the final at Lord's against Warwickshire as strong favourites.
Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at Cricinfo