Somerset allrounder Alfonso Thomas was left virtually speechless after sealing a nerve-wracking last-ball victory over Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad. Somerset seemed down for the count at 99 for 7 - they had lost six for 49 - chasing 154, but Thomas put on 50 for the eighth wicket with James Hildreth and then hit the winning runs off Scott Styris, who had turned matters around with two wickets in the final over.
"I cannot believe I've done that. It's still not making sense … I just had Peter Trego saying he can't hug me enough," said an overawed Thomas, who followed 2 for 25, a catch and a run out with a crucial, unbeaten 30. "The job's not done, because we have a very big game on Monday."
This win was down to teamwork, a trait Somerset have shown on numerous occasions over the past few seasons in county cricket. "Myself and James [Hildreth] were saying to each other, 'let's just keep taking it to the last over and then it becomes a batsman versus bowler thing'," said Thomas, 32. "Fidel Edwards got taken off which was really unfortunate for them but it worked in our favour."
Both Deccan and Somerset stumbled after quick starts, which was credit to the bowlers on either side. Deccan seemed on track for victory after reducing Somerset to 110 for 7 but, after a 13-run over from Pragyan Ojha in which Thomas hit a six and Hildreth a four, suffered a big blow when Edwards was taken off the attack for sending down his second beamer, down the leg side, first ball of the 17th over. "He was going for a full yorker first ball and that slipped, then the ball got damp so that's just unfortunate," said Adam Gilchrist, captain of Deccan. "But that's the rule. A lot goes through your head when your strike bowler can't bowl his two last overs."
Justin Langer, the Somerset captain, credited the squad being a tight unit as a key factor in their success. "That is one of our advantages. We're coming off a lot of county cricket and have had a couple of fantastic years," he said. "Ironically, we've won a lot of close games like this so it is a great tribute the character of the club. For most of our guys to play in front of a crowd like this and in an excellent stadium was a great thrill, and then obviously to win a very close contest goes to show the character of the club."
Somerset will hardly have time to soak in this amazing win, because they have an early morning flight to Bangalore, where they play Trinidad & Tobago on Monday. "It's a big game and we'd like to win that," said Langer, who, yesterday, had commented that by around 11pm tonight he would know where Somerset were placed. "We've got a lot of areas where we can improve, but to beat Deccan Chargers at their home ground is a great booster for us. We've got to make sure our preparation is just as good."
Gilchrist received a loud ovation after the match despite Deccan failing to win a match at home; they lost all their Hyderabad fixtures in the 2008 IPL. "We can't seem to break that duck here," he said, "But we played really well. We had tough conditions and the rain but we fought back really well. All credit to the Somerset guys; they pegged us back really well. I felt we were short about 40 on this wicket. It was an absolutely beautiful wicket."
Gilchrist turned to thank the crowd before signing off for the night. "They kept supporting us even after a tough first IPL but we came home winners after taking the title the next year," he said. "I promise you, we're trying."