16 July 2023

Somerset’s Lewis Gregory relieved to shed ‘nearly men’ tag after Blast title win

16 July 2023

Captain Lewis Gregory savoured Somerset shedding their “nearly men” tag as they claimed a first Vitality Blast crown in 18 years.

While they won the competition in 2005, Somerset had been unrewarded on their previous seven visits to Finals Day, finishing runners-up in three successive years in 2009, 2010 and 2011 then again in 2021.

But a couple of accomplished bowling displays – in which they defended sub-150 totals against both Surrey in the semi-final then Essex in the Edgbaston showpiece – saw them belatedly end their hoodoo.

Gregory was beaming after Matt Henry’s four for 24 underpinned a 14-run win over Essex, who were all out for 131 in 18.3 overs when Daniel Sams was dismissed for a belligerent 45 off 26 balls.

“(It feels) pretty damn good,” said a relieved Gregory at the presentation ceremony. “I’ve been to finals day many, many times and this is a special feeling to get over the line.

“Everyone sees Somerset as the nearly men, and it becomes harder each time you come back. I was just praying we had a couple of guys who were having on of those days where you just can’t stop them.

“We did it the hard way throughout the day, it’s just rewards.”

A score of 142 for seven – in a match reduced to 19 overs per side because of rain – was enough for Somerset to move into Saturday night’s final, where they were all out for 145 in exactly 20 overs.

Adam Rossington and Dan Lawrence flew out of the traps for Essex, putting on 27 in 11 deliveries, but they were halted in their tracks by an accomplished spell of fast bowling from Henry, who took out both batters then produced the ball of the day with a bail-trimmer to see the back of Michael Pepper.

Ish Sodhi, signed on a short-term deal last month due to injuries to Peter Siddle and Roelof van der Merwe, made crucial inroads into Essex’s batting, with the New Zealand leg-spinner taking three for 22.

However, Sams played a lone hand to keep Essex in the game, prompting Gregory to turn to his ace Henry, who saw the first ball of his final over dispatched for a towering, straight six.

It was his third maximum of the game and left Essex needing 15 off the last 11 deliveries with just one wicket left, but a dot was followed by Henry offering width and Sams carving to short third, where Tom Kohler-Cadmore plucked the ball out of the air with a terrific one-handed grab.

“It’s going to be played a lot over the next wee while,” said Sodhi.

“He took an absolute hanger and it’s definitely one of the most exciting moments in my cricketing career so far, I’m glad he hung on to it because Sams is a dangerous player.

I've been to finals day many, many times and this is a special feeling to get over the line

“T20 is a fickle game, with 15 runs left it’s effectively two and a half hits and you win the game, and Sams is well capable of that. It makes that catch that Tom took all that more special.”

Victory for Somerset marks the fifth successive occasion that the team who prevailed in the second semi-final also won the final.

While Sams was at the crease, Essex were always in with a chance but captain Simon Harmer felt the Australian’s dismissal to a breathtaking catch was one of many things that did not go their way.

Harmer conceded Somerset, who lost just twice in the entire campaign, were worthy winners but rued what he perceived to be luck being against them, having reached the final by defeating defending champions Hampshire.

“Hats off to Somerset, they were the better team – they outplayed us,” Harmer said. “We didn’t get the rub of the green, in my opinion, and on days like this, you need a bit of luck.

“I can’t fault the way the boys played it. At the very end Daniel Sams just needed someone to bat with him and unfortunately we kept losing wickets. Such is the nature of the game.”

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