David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
Somerset 150 (Dickson 42, Sams 4-20) beat Essex 138 (Pepper 63, Henry 3-17, Green 3-24) by 12 runs
There was an apple rolling contest at Taunton during the interval but it might well be fermented apples that are more to the taste of Somerset supporters after they emerged triumphant from a taut Blast contest to extend their winning start to the season to six matches.
Somerset's winning streak is unsurpassed in their T20 history as they threaten to run away with South Group. Their brand of exciting batting has long been recognised, but this was another victory in a tight game, much in keeping with their toppling of Kent five days earlier - except accompanied by sun rather than rain - and such wins are often more valuable in ingraining a winning mentality.
This Taunton pitch had been expected to offer runs galore, but it only allowed one half-century in a low-scoring contest - Michael Pepper, Essex's leading run-maker last season, hitting a bristling 63 from 43 balls before he was stumped, making room to the slow left-arm of Roelof van der Merwe. The keeper who completed the formalities was Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who took the gloves for Somerset for the first time in the absence of Tom Banton because of a minor injury.
Somerset's pleasure will have been tempered by the news as the match was completed that Jack Leach, a west country favourite, will miss the Ashes series because of a stress fracture, cruel luck for a spin bowler who has established himself in the side over recent months.
When Pepper fell at 105 for 6, Essex required 46 from 35 balls, and if they have a weakness, it could be that Daniel Sams, at No. 7, and Simon Harmer, at eight, although both have pretensions as bowling allrounders, feel one place too high in the order. They edged Essex to within 21 with 14 balls remaining, but then Matt Henry held back a delivery to york Harmer, and Ben Green's inviting full toss to Sams was expertly caught over his shoulder by Tom Lammonby at deep midwicket. A suicidal run-out finished matters.
Henry was excellent throughout and include both openers in his 3 for 17. Green is developing into a serviceable county T20 bowler and another three wickets for his medium-pace assortment made him the leading wicket-taker in the country. Paul Walter, whose full-blooded leg-side charge got as far as cover, is not the first batter to discover that he is less hittable than he appears.
"I'm bowling a few lob-ups and they keep getting hit to the fielders," Green offered by way of explanation.
For Somerset to pull the game round was particularly impressive considering that Craig Overton, so often their inspiration, leaked 38 from three overs with Pepper to the fore. But Matt Critchley's mis-pull to long leg was well snaffled by van der Merwe and Somerset could also afford to drop Pepper on 28 - a difficult diving catch to Henry at fly slip.
On many days, Sams' 4 for 20 would have been enough for an Essex victory. Sams fits the criteria of an experienced player deciding to throw in his lot with T20 franchises around the world. He has taken the plunge at 30, turning down a state contract with New South Wales last month in a search instead for some late-career pay-days.
He should be feeling refreshed, having not taken the field in this season's IPL, and with an English summer ahead, he is looking to repeat last season's success when he helped Essex to the Blast quarter-finals and was a member of the Trent Rockets side that won the Hundred.
Essex were late starters in this season's competition, but Sams' left-arm seam is already looking in good order. He took the last three wickets to enhance his figures, but his first spell made a decisive breakthrough with the important wicket of Lammonby.
Lammonby was shunted back to opener in the absence of Banton and he monopolised the early strike to make 34 from 23, regularly stepping to leg to free his arms. When Sams followed him, he plopped him over the pavilion and just short of the River Tone. The next ball was full and slower and Lammonby was bowled as he played across it.
Of his three wickets at the tail-end of the innings, the most impressive was that of van der Merwe. Sams flung the ball wide of off stump, van der Merwe, on the stretch, contrived to chip it over his head and Sams, thick-set but still mobile, made excellent ground to claim the catch.
With Will Smeed holing out at deep square for a single (Somerset's white-ball freelance now has 70 runs in six knocks); Kohler-Cadmore's obvious threat silenced by Harmer's juggling return catch, diving low to his left; and Tom Abell sweeping Critchley's second ball, flat and short, to deep square, Somerset were 71 for 4 with the innings into the 10th over.
Sean Dickson, who was dropped from Somerset's Championship side earlier in the season after a succession of low scores, was making his Somerset T20 debut, drafted in to take Lammonby's place at No. 5, and he swung Harmer and Shane Snater for sixes in making 42 from 29 balls.
When he was seventh out, failing to hit Harmer over long-on, Somerset were 125 for 7 and with 19 balls left would have still had ambitions of sneaking to 155-160, only for the excellence of Sams to restrict them.
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