David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
Somerset 154 (Lammonby 34, Agar 3-18, Hogan 3-33) beat Kent 112 (Green 3-19) by 13 runs via DLS method
Somerset's 154 had always resembled a defendable score on a seaming pitch and, as squally showers increasingly played havoc on a cold Canterbury night, they held their nerve impressively in the field to claim their fourth successive win and maintain their position at the top of South Group.
Ben Green had spent some of the Kent innings off the field injured on a mucky night when Somerset badly wanted a full bank of seamers, but crucially he returned in the nick of time to complete an impressive all-round bowling performance.
With the final recalculation leaving Kent needing a further 54 from 4.1 overs, Green returned 3 for 19 in two overs, the highlight a cleverly-disguised yorker to bowl George Linde. Matt Henry helped him to another, keeping his feet well enough on a well-oiled outfield to throw the ball up at long-off as he crossed the rope and completed the catch.
Kent had never really threatened as Somerset's experienced seamers jousted for the delivery of the night. Henry's break-back to bowl Joe Denly came close but it was probably shaded by Peter Siddle's away-seamer to strike Daniel Bell-Drummond's off stump. Sam Billings shaped better than most until he made room against Lewis Gregory and his off stump also went flying.
Kent threw free t-shirts into the crowd during the match, but winter coats would have been a more appropriate offering on a showery and chilly night. Online coverage was a persuasive option - it would have set you back £5.99, though. Kent don't have a reputation as one of county cricket's natural innovators, but they have become the first club to risk what will surely be an inevitable outcome: they are charging for their in-house coverage of the Vitality Blast.
If county cricket's tie-up with BBC radio commentary has been a symbiotic relationship that has helped to promote the county game like never before, financial imperatives will surely mean that, in T20, Kent's experiment will soon be adopted by others. They are a curious outlier as, according to Wisden Cricketers Almanack, their coverage was the third least-watched among the counties in 2022, although those figures were not helped by a disappointing season in which they finished bottom of South Group.
As the quality of in-house coverage has improved, so have the costs and if free coverage of Championship cricket remains a highly persuasive loss-leader that it would be foolish to abandon, then T20 is a different animal. For a modest outlay, it was possible to receive professional coverage, fronted by an experienced broadcaster and former captain, Dave Fulton, who had the know-how to keep home favouritism to acceptable levels. Away supporters can watch Kent's coverage without calling for the sick bag.
That was certainly true for Somerset supporters as they saw another victory unfold. Shane Burger, Somerset's assistant coach, emphasised the importance of his side's doughty attitude in the field. "There was never a moan, there was always a mindset of trying to get out there and play cricket. I think many a team would try to get off the field rather than play. People were slipping over and the ball was wet but full credit to the guys. It just shows what you can do if you have the right mindset."
That toughness took a while to reveal itself. Somerset's three musketeers were all dismissed for 40 within 4.3 overs. Tom Banton, Will Smeed and Tom Kohler-Cadmore (who has currently won central-casting approval over Tom Lammonby, who now bats at No. 5) rarely assess conditions - that tends to be left to others down the order - and they quickly perished.
Banton, whose reputation has taken a battering in the past two years, has had a good start to the season, but his attempt to hit Michael Hogan inside-out, up the slope, came to grief. Kohler-Cadmore's talent reel included 20 off one over from Joe Denly until he failed with a blow down the ground. Denly's two overs cost 29 and hindsight suggested an introductory over should have been enough on such a night.
Smeed's failure warrants more than a passing mention. His decision last November to opt for a solely white-ball future, at only 21, signalled changing times and everything suggests that he has a natural affinity for the shorter game, but things have not gone according to plan. He went unsold in the IPL auction and, since his unbeaten 101 for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred in August, he has mustered only a couple of 30s in 14 T20 matches, more if you count appearances in Abu Dhabi and for Somerset's 2nd XI.
Smeed fell fourth ball for nought, the first ball after a rain break, when Wes Agar beat him on the drive, swinging one through the gate to hit middle stump. It was his fourth failure and, although somebody will suffer before too long, when you take such a momentous decision, such a lean run must weigh more heavily.
Agar's stay at Kent has been extended for a further two months as cover for Kane Richardson and George Linde, and he gained an immediate opportunity after Richardson withdrew because of an unspecified illness. Another quick bowler, India's Arshdeep Singh, is also scheduled to play red-ball cricket in June and July.
His T20 experience is sound enough: although not capped by Australia, he is a Big Bash winner with Adelaide Strikers and his career-best 4 for 6 came in the notable BBL match in December when Strikers dismissed Sydney Thunder were dismissed for just 15 runs. His 3 for 18 will do for a start.
That Somerset reached 154 was due primarily to Lammonby's restrained 34 from 31. He fell to his first adventurous moment. The "five overs left" bell rang in his head; he shuffled outside off stump for a pre-meditated scoop and Grant Stewart followed him shrewdly to force a catch at the wicket.
An over of strong-arming against Hogan by Roelof van der Merwe helped Somerset to a competitive score, a sequence in which Jordan Cox once again encouraged the belief that he is an T20 outfielder to rival anybody in the world. If the day comes when he takes the gloves, in some ways it will be a bit of a shame. In narrowly failing to pull off a brilliant relay catch with Denly, and again flinging himself to the ground later in the over, he turned a six and a four into a couple of twos. On many a night, those six runs would have been crucial. Not this night.
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