Somerset win battle against spin

Roelof van der Merwe gets down on his knee to play through the off side AFP

Kolkata Knight Riders were listless in the field, Somerset were sharper. Auckland were good too but they lost both their qualifying games. Fielding is - even in the age of Twenty20 - a skill ancillary to batting and bowling. What allowed Somerset's fielders to apply pressure was the good old weight of runs scored by their batsmen, led by Peter Trego, which ultimately overwhelmed Kolkata.

Kolkata's slow bowlers had confounded Auckland into messing up their small chase of 121 a couple of days ago. Four Somerset players watched that game from the stands. Their approach today showed that they had watched closely.

Somerset came hard at Kolkata's spinners right from the start. Their methods were not pretty, they didn't even find the middle of the bat initially, but they proved effective. The frenetic burst at the top could easily have fizzled out but Somerset did not let the fall of a wicket spoil their momentum. If anything, each incoming batsman only upped the tempo.

Roelof van der Merwe is usually inclined to give it a thump, and the first delivery he faced from Yusuf Pathan, he duly swung over midwicket. Yusuf pitched short in the same over and Trego immediately smashed him past point.

Rajat Bhatia was the other bowler who, with Yusuf, had brought Kolkata back against Auckland. Trego and van der Merwe hit a boundary each in what turned out to be Bhatia's only over of the game.

It was in the next over, the tenth, that Somerset stamped their authority on the spinners. Yusuf's first delivery was not that short but Trego dispatched it over midwicket. Yusuf fell apart after that, conceding for 17 in the over. After van der Merwe's departure, Nick Compton provided the spark at the death and Somerset surged to 166.

Trego said what allowed Somerset to approach spin with an uninhibited mind was that they faced a lot of it during the English domestic season. "We have practised very hard against spin. Because we are a powerful batting line-up, in England every team plays a lot of spin against us," Trego said. "We have had to overcome it. We got to another final this year with sometimes only eight overs of seam being bowled per match. We have progressively got better. I think a lot of the guys know their games better now."

Jacques Kallis, the Kolkata captain, said the pitch played better compared to the one for their game against Auckland and that helped Somerset play the way they did. "It was a different wicket," Kallis said. "The ball came on very well."

To prove it was their batsmen's skills and not the pitch that facilitated the victory, Somerset's spinners picked up 6 for 86 runs to beat Kolkata at their own game.