Somerset hopes hit by Howell blitz for Gloucestershire
- Credit: PA
Benny Howell announced his return to Gloucestershire’s team after more than a year on the injured list by blasting an unbeaten 49 off 18 balls in an 11-run Vitality Blast win over Somerset at Taunton.
The visitors posted 203 for six after losing the toss, with Howell and Jack Taylor (31 not out) cutting loose after Ian Cockbain’s 50 from 27 balls had provided early momentum.
Max Waller escaped the carnage with three for 18 and in reply, Somerset made 192 for eight, with 18-year-old Will Smeed hitting a valiant 82 on only his second T20 appearance and Lewis Gregory contributing 38.
The game summed up the contrasting fortunes of the two West Country sides in the competition. For Central Group leaders Gloucestershire, it was a fifth successive win, while Somerset’s dismal campaign has now featured four defeats.
Chris Dent got the Gloucestershire innings off to a flying start in glorious sunshine with two fours and a six off the second over, bowled by Gregory, before falling for 16.
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Cockbain and Miles Hammond then both scored freely to take the total to 53 for one at the end of the six-over power play.
Hammond reverse swept Roelof van der Merwe for six before holing out to deep cover for 27 to become Waller’s first victim.
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The ninth over cost Somerset 30 runs. It was begun by Tom Abell, who had to be removed from the attack after bowling successive no-balled full-tosses and ended by Ollie Sale, whose first three balls were each dispatched for six by Cockbain.
Gloucestershire were 109 for three at the halfway point in their innings, Ryan Higgins having departed lbw to van der Merwe.
But Waller then removed Cockbain and James Bracey in quick succession to catches by Gregory at mid-wicket and cover and for a short time Somerset applied a brake to the scoring rate.
When George Scott fell to van der Merwe, Gloucestershire were 135 for six and in danger of squandering their advantage.
But Howell came in to join skipper Taylor in a stand of 68 that occupied just 5.1 overs. Making up for lost time after his long spell battling hamstring and calf problems, Howell smashed five sixes and three fours in an exhilarating exhibition.
Taylor lost little by comparison and their combined aggression and skill ensured Gloucestershire a hugely competitive score.
Somerset rarely threatened to make a game of it as Steve Davies and Babar Azam fell in the first five overs of their reply, Higgins and David Payne claiming the wickets.
After six overs the hosts were 35 for two. Dent then produced two superb throws from the deep to run out first Abell and then George Bartlett, attempting second runs, as Gloucestershire tightened their grip and Somerset required 13 an over off the last 10.
All the while Academy product Smeed was quietly going about his business with precious little support. The youngster lifted Howell over square leg for the first six of the innings. Gloucestershire’s had featured 14.
Smeed’s second six, off Tom Smith, took him to a hugely impressive maiden Somerset half-century, from 36 balls, with six fours. Both he and Gregory were dropped as they added 65 in 6.2 overs.
When Gregory was stumped giving Howell the charge it looked all over. Tom Lammonby had other ideas and hit two sixes and a four in the 17th over, bowled by Higgins.
Smeed followed suit with successive sixes off Howell and another off Higgins before being caught at long-on in the penultimate over. Lammonby followed next ball and Somerset’s race was run.