Somerset steal up on Northants in quarter-final race after spinners impress

Somerset 146 for 3 (Davies 45) beat Northamptonshire 140 for 9 (Cobb 49, Goldsworthy 2-21) by seven wickets

Only 10 days ago it would have been a ludicrous suggestion that Somerset could qualify for the T20 Blast quarter-finals at Northamptonshire’s expense. But thanks to a tight bowling effort on a used surface, and an unbroken 65-run stand in only seven overs between Tom Abell and Tom Lammonby on Friday evening, the teams are level on points with one game remaining in the group stage.

Lammonby and Abell came together after Steven Davies was trapped lbw for an enterprising 45 in the 11th over; while the required rate was extremely manageable, memories of their four defeats while chasing in this competition would have lingered.

But nerves were hard to detect: Abell nudged singles and improvised as required, before Lammonby struck three towering sixes to see them over the line, after their spinners had set things up by restricting Northants to a below-par 140 for 9.

It is a testament to Somerset’s faith in young players that they have managed to keep their season alive. In Lammonby, Lewis Goldsworthy and Will Smeed, they have fielded three players born in the 21st century in their last two wins, and while Wednesday night’s effort in Cardiff was set up by Babar Azam, this victory owed much to the youth wing.

Goldsworthy, who quietly impressed in England’s disappointing Under-19 World Cup campaign at the start of the year, bowled tidy left-arm spin here, removing Northants’ two set batsmen to start the rot after they had reached 73 for 1 in nine overs.

And while Smeed fell cheaply, two games after hitting a 49-ball 82 in his second professional appearance, Lammonby finished the job with a 23-ball cameo of 43 not out, showcasing his power game over the leg side. Next week’s Lord’s final still represents their best chance of a trophy this season, but victory against pace-setting Gloucestershire on Sunday should be enough to book a place in the quarter-finals.

“They haven’t been traditional Taunton T20 wickets this season: they’ve held a little, and the addition of another spinner [Goldsworthy] has helped us take pace off the ball,” Lewis Gregory, Somerset’s captain, said. “But I thought the three spinners bowled beautifully, trying to get them to put pace back on the ball. If you keep taking wickets, it makes T20 cricket a lot easier.

Gregory admitted victory in Bristol – where they have not won in the Blast since 2015 – would be no cakewalk. “We’re going to have to go to Bristol and try to play a brand of cricket that will be effective on that surface. They’ve had a fantastic Blast so far – there’s no pressure on our front, and we’ll go there and try to put in a performance.”

After four wins and a wash-out in the first half of the competition, Northants have lost four in a row to leave them with a must-win game against Birmingham Bears on Sunday. They had been imperious at the start of the competition, with Paul Stirling flying with the bat and their spinners strangling opponents, but ever since news of a squad member’s positive Covid-19 test, their form has nosedived.

They are a county with proud T20 heritage, and will not want to blame their drop-off on that alone, but its effect on their season has been clear. Their first two defeats after the mid-tournament round of Bob Willis Trophy fixtures came without two self-isolating players, and they have been unable to arrest the slide.

“We don’t want to use it as an excuse,” Josh Cobb said. “The first game back, you could clearly see it had had an impact, but since then it’s not necessarily been a problem – we’ve had time to train, and put in the performances, we’ve just been a bit short.

“We saw the impact of momentum in the first half of the comp, and the same thing can happen the opposite way, and that’s what’s currently happening. There’s not too much to say ahead of Sunday: everyone knows what we’ve got to do, which is turn up and win.”

Northants’ innings was a perfect reflection of their season: after reaching 82 for 2 after 10 overs, they managed only three boundaries in the second half to limp to 140 for 9. Stirling fell to Goldsworthy, playing only his second professional game, when holing out to long-off, and when Adam Rossington heaved to long-on two overs later, captain Josh Cobb – unbeaten on 49 – held the key.

But he too picked out a man on the rope three balls later, with Roelof van der Merwe taking a spectacular diving catch over his head, and from 89 for 4, Northants never looked like posting a competitive total. Somerset’s spinners – Goldsworthy, van der Merwe and Max Waller – were particularly frugal, with a combined return of 3 for 72 across their 13 overs, and will have a big role to play at Bristol.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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