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Somerset squeeze last ball win in a thriller against Auckland

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somerset1The Auckland Aces were unfortunate to be sent packing from the Champions League T20 on Tuesday losing back to back narrow games. Their latest loss came against the Somerset Sabres, who defied the odds to squeeze past the finish line on the last ball of the match with skipper Alfonso Thomas clonking the winning runs. Some high quality bowling was the highlight of the game with the Sabres bowlers doing exceedingly well to restrict Auckland to 125/7 despite a battling unbeaten 47 from Lou Vincent. In response, the Sabres were in trouble at 64/5 before a match winning partnership between James Hildreth and Steve Snell kept their hopes alive in the competition.

The Auckland Aces looked to bounce back from the narrow defeat they suffered at the hands of the Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday when they took on England's no.2 side the Somerset Sabres in the 8pm kick-off at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. The evening started perfectly for the New Zealand side, with them winning the toss and choosing to bat first. They named an unchanged side from last night's game, keeping faith in the batsmen who let them down after the bowlers had done a tremendous job earlier on.

Somerset on the other hand were significantly depleted in comparison with the team they put out in the Friends Life Final earlier this summer with Marcus Trescothick opting not to travel, while wicketkeeper batsman Craig Kieswetter was on international duty.

Auckland's luck continued early in the game, with Martin Guptill earning an early life in the first over with leg spinner Max Waller putting down a tough chance in the covers off Alfonso Thomas. However, that's where the New Zealand side's luck appeared to run out as they lost a wicket in each of the next three overs to slide to 14/3. Peter Trego got Jimmy Adams and Martin Guptill on consecutive balls in two different overs and was oblivious to the fact that he was on a hat-trick. Meanwhile in the over in between Rob Quiney's terrible time in India continued with the Aussie being trapped leg before for 4.

A partnership worth 49 between Lou Vincent and Gareth Hopkins looked set to rescue the innings with 15 runs coming from the 6th over bowled by the double wicket-taker Trego. However, skipper Hopkins was run out for 22 while trying to pinch a second. The young leggie Waller then picked up the crucial wicket of big-six-hitter Colin Munro for 6 and ended his 4 over spell with immaculate figures of 1-18.

At the end of 15 overs, Auckland were struggling at 84/5 and needed someone to get a quickfire 30-40 runs to give their bowlers something to defend under lights.

The New Zealand did get something of a late flourish with their last 5 overs contributing 41 runs. The runs though came in fits and starts with the 16th and 19th overs going for 11 each, but nothing significant on either side. Lou Vincent ended unbeaten with a run a ball 47, anchoring the innings through till the end while Kyle Mills and Ronnie Hera came and went. The decision to hold Andre Adams back to no.9 was baffling to say the least. The former Kiwi allrounder made a handy 13 from 7 balls including depositing Roelof van der Merwe's final delivery beyond the ropes as the Aces ended their innings with 125.

Somerset got off to a solid start in response, racing to 22 in just 15 balls before Chris Jones, who had made 16 of those runs was well caught by Jimmy Adams off Kyle Mills. Roelof van der Merwe was sent in at no.3 as a good old fashioned pinch-hitter and in typical fashion smashed the first ball he faced for a boundary before being dropped by Mills off his own bowling on the very next delivery. Surprisingly that made the allrounder settle down and the South African calmy joined Peter Trego in knowing off the runs in ones and twos, picking up the odd boundary when available.

At 52/1 from 8 overs, Somerset were in cruise control, much like the Auckland Aces themselves the previous night against the Kolkata Knight Riders, before they lost 3 wickets for 2 runs to turn the game on its head. Both set batsmen were dismissed in consecutive overs - Van der Merwe to his opposite number Ronnie Hera, while Trego fell to the left-arm pace of Michael Bates. Bates was soon on a hat-trick when he sent Nick Compton back for a first ball duck, but Malaysian star Arul Suppiah averted the immediate danger. Bates completed a double wicket maiden, and at the half-way stage Somerset were in a spot of bother at 54/4.

The next two overs brought 10 runs and a wicket on the penultimate ball as Suppiah fell to Chris Martin for an 8-ball 3, and the Somerset innings was on the verge of falling off the rails.

Steve Snell and James Hildreth came to Somerset's resue, adding 42 runs in a little more than 6 overs to bring the Sabres within dreaming range of winning this match. Hildreth had dropped anchor, and was busy rotating the strike, while wicketkeeper Snell was taking all the risks, and narrowly escaped the clutches of Lou Vincent back-pedalling off the bowling of Chris Martin.

With 20 needed from the last 2 overs, Somerset picked up 3 boundaries in the 19th over, all behind the wicket, leaving the so far brilliant Michael Bates (3-1-8-2) with just 5 runs to defend in the last over. Bates put in a Herculean effort to keep the ask down to 2 from 2 balls. Hildreth tried to pinch a two on the penultimate ball, but was a run out because of a good throw from Colin Munro. Skipper Alfonso Thomas came out with 1 required from the final ball and kept his nerve by lifting a full delivery over the covers to hit the winning runs.

Auckland are thus out of the tournament, having lost two exceptionally close games, while Somerset will now play Kolkata Knight Riders tomorrow with qualification to the main event the prize for the victor.


Auckland: Martin Guptill, Jimmy Adams, Lou Vincent, Rob Quiney, Gareth Hopkins (c & wk), Kyle Mills, Andre Adams, Chris Martin, Michael Bates, Ronnie Hira, Colin Munro.

Somerset: Chris Jones, Nick Compton, Lewis Gregory, James Hidreth, Arul Suppiah, Peter Trego, Roelof van der Merve, Steve Snell, Murali Kartik, Alfonso Thomas, Max Waller.

Mini Scorecard:

Auckland Aces 125/7 (20 overs, 6.25rpo)
L Vincent 47 (47) P Trego 2-26
G Hopkins 22 (22) A Thomas 2-21

Somerset Sabres 126/6 (20 overs, 6.3rpo)
S Snell 34* (24) M Bates 2-13
J Hildreth 34 (34) R Hira 1-15

Somerset win by 4 wickets

File Photograph Copyright: Barry Zee