The Twenty20 trophy will have a new name on it after Somerset knocked out the holders Leicestershire in a nail-biting semi-final. Graeme Smith mixed up his bowlers to devastating effect as Somerset successfully defended 157 to earn their place in the final alongside Lancashire.
Their total hadn't looked to be enough when the opener Darren Maddy posted 56 to set a solid platform in reply, but Ian Blackwell turned the screw in the middle overs to dismiss him, and turn the match. Richard Johnson mopped up later on. Leicestershire entered the final over needing 17 to win, and fell just short. "We chucked that away," fumed Leicestershire's captain HD Ackerman afterwards.
Smith chose to bat and was in commanding mood, striking 29 from 20 balls, but David Masters' blinding catch at mid-on checked Somerset's progress (40 for 1). Masters ran backwards before leaping athletically to cling on at full stretch. Matthew Wood and Marcus Trescothick recovered from the blow , putting on 49 for the second wicket, but Wood was run out for 38 with the score 89 and his dismissal sparked a mini collapse from which Somerset couldn't recover.
Trescothick fell shortly after, the first of three victims for Dinesh Mongia, but the highlight of this flurry was another super catch from Mongia, which made up for his dropping Wood's dolly earlier. When James Hildreth tried to chip him, Mongia sprinted fast and hard to snaffle the chance over his head and Somerset were struggling (102 for 5). The slide continued but Carl Gazzard's quickfire 26 proved vital.
Johnson, who took 3 for 23 with his seam bowling and was instrumental in the closing stages, was understandably delighted to be in the final on just his first day of Twenty20 cricket. "In those conditions you have to get it as full as you can," said Johnson," and I managed to do that on the day. Ian Blackwell bowled brilliantly: we knew the spinners would play a part."
He recognised that Somerset wouldn't be the favourites for the final. "They are a strong team - we will be the underdogs, but we will give it our best and see how it goes." The teams might just have to contest the final tomorrow, on the reserve day, as heavy rains move across London towards The Oval.
Tight fielding is of the essence in Twenty20 cricket - as much, if not more so than in other forms of the game - and Leicestershire's fielders took some great catches and some good run-outs. It was good back-up to some tight bowling which had included a rare wicket maiden, Jeremy Snape impressing in the 13th over. But Somerset responded with some great fielding of their own - and their collective effort ultimately paid dividends.