Will Smeed offers sound support as visitors bounce back from thumping less than a fortnight ago
Somerset 149 for 3 (Hildreth 72*, Smeed 42) beat Surrey 146 for 8 (Jacks 65, Leach 3-28) by seven wickets
Hildreth scored the winning runs at this ground when Somerset won their only T20 crown back in 2005 and tonight marked his 200th appearance – all of them for Somerset – with a typically classy unbeaten 72. To paraphrase his pre-tournament words, you seemingly can teach an old dog new tricks: promoted to open the batting as a stop-gap, Hildreth now has 169 runs at a strike-rate touching 150.
He played with freedom, intent on celebrating his landmark with a waltz at every ball. Following several early wafts that threatened nothing but air, Gus Atkinson was pulled and then cut away to get Hildreth going. He never looked back, a free-hit following a Jordan Clark beamer was swatted into the Peter May Stand, while he picked up seven boundaries in his favoured spots behind square either side of the wicket.
And with Hildreth, some 16 years his junior, was Smeed. He made 42 before a leading edge gave Dan Moriarty a rare-wicket maiden in this format. It meant the pair fell agonisingly one shy of Peter Trego and Corey Anderson’s record stand in this fixture for Somerset: one suspects they will care little.
There are many fine judges in the West Country who believe Smeed is technically the best player Greg Kennis and his Academy staff have ever produced. It is very early days but there is plenty to suggest they are onto something. Beaten for pace several times by Jamie Overton, making a rare appearance with the ball in a powerplay, Smeed responded by flicking his former team-mate over the ground’s longest boundary. He later treated Jade Dernbach with disdain, taking 16 from three balls, including back-to-back sixes. If Smeed is not careful, that flick over square-leg will rapidly become a trademark.
Leach had in the meantime picked up a maiden T20 wicket, although he owes Ben Green a drink for it: Jamie Smith mistimed a slog-sweep that got far more height than distance, Green taking a superb catch diving forward over his shoulder having started at mid-on.
At that point Surrey were under pressure. Or it least it seemed that way, only for Jacks to first stroke a pair of fours, before flicking and pulling consecutive Josh Davey deliveries for six. The first took Jacks to a half-century of sixes in just the 50th game of his fledgling T20 career: a remarkable 32% of his runs have come that way.
Fifty was in vogue, with Jacks’ partnership with Laurie Evans suddenly worth that many from only 30 balls. But then Evans comically ran himself out. He saw a reverse-sweep fall just short of Leach at point, but had set off for a run in the meantime that Jacks had no interest in. Jamie Overton threatened fireworks, but drilled one to Lewis Gregory at cover.
Rory Burns brought up Surrey’s hundred with the reverse-sweep that had drawn so much attention during England’s ill-fated tour of India but the runs had dried up. Much rested on Jack, but having raced to 50 off 28, even he found runs hard to come by on a used pitch against Somerset’s spin trio of Leach, Goldsworthy and Max Waller. Just 15 runs came from his next 14 balls and frustration lingered in the air. As did Jacks’ very next shot, Waller taking the catch at long-off to give Leach 3 for 28. Easy game, T20.
Clark teased Lammonby to hit Craig Overton for six late on, with Moriarty hoicking Davey for a similar result in the final over. That allowed Surrey to set 147 to win. It proved well short.
There was plenty of symmetry about the way both teams started their innings: an early wicket followed by a fruitful powerplay. But whereas Surrey men tumbled regularly, Somerset stood firm. And there is symmetry in results too: this is the fifth consecutive summer these teams have taken two points off each other.
Following a slow start, Somerset have won their last two. Surrey, on the other hand, began like a steam train but are now in model railway mode, their momentum checked by first the rain and then international call-ups.