Kent 151 for 4 (Billings 56*) beat Somerset 149 (Milne 5-11) by six wickets
Adam Milne claimed 5 for 11 as Kent beat Somerset by six wickets at Taunton to keep alive their chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast.
Returning his best figures for Kent, the New Zealand paceman registered 15 dot balls in 3.5 overs as the home side were dismissed for 149 in 18.5 overs. Striking the ball cleanly, Sam Billings then posted an unbeaten 56 from 36 balls as the visitors reached their target with nine deliveries to spare, in the process inflicting Somerset’s first home defeat in the competition.
Put into bat, Somerset made a blistering start in front of a sellout crowd, Steven Davies and Lewis Gregory trading almost exclusively in boundaries and matching one another blow for blow in an opening stand of 35. But the momentum shifted dramatically as Somerset then lost three wickets in a Powerplay that ebbed and flowed.
Davies was brilliantly caught by an airborne James Neesham at midwicket off the bowling of Milne and Gregory top-edged a quicker delivery from Mitchell Claydon and was snaffled by wicketkeeper Billings on the run. When Jim Allenby edged Claydon behind in the fifth over, the home side were 40 for 3 and firmly on the back foot.
Required to rebuild the innings, Johann Myburgh and James Hildreth had little option but to proceed with a degree of caution. More of an accumulator than a dasher, Hildreth adopted a supporting role, while the naturally pugnacious Myburgh opted to hit out, a high-risk strategy that resulted in him chipping a delivery from Imran Qayyum to cover point for 25.
Hildreth has proved himself a saviour on more than one occasion for Somerset in the short format this summer, helping his team chase down victory targets in games against Middlesex and Surrey. Charged with the task of stabilising the innings, he successfully rotated the strike with Dean Elgar in a revitalising partnership that was characterised by deft placement and feverish running.
Having raised 36 from 30 balls and dominated a stand of 43 for the fifth wicket, Hildreth was looking to accelerate when, in the act of attempting to sweep Milne, he proved fallible and was adjudged lbw with the score on 117 in the 15th over. With a tendency to be hit or miss on these occasions, one-day specialist Roeluf van der Merve was then bowled by a straight ball from Callum Haggett as Somerset’s prospects of posting a challenging total receded.
Called upon to play expansively, Elgar perished in pursuit of a six, held by Alex Blake on the long-on boundary off the bowling of Neesham as Kent, supremely athletic in the field, turned the screw further. Tim Groenewald hoisted the final ball of the 18th over to deep midwicket and Craig Overton was bowled by Milne for 12, at which point the home side were 147 for 9 and resigned to falling short.
His confidence running high, the impressive Milne then made a mess of Paul van Meekeren’s stumps as the innings was terminated with seven balls unused.
Managing to deliver what Somerset could not, Joe Denly and Daniel Bell-Drummond both cleared the boundary rope in an opening stand of 40 that served to stamp Kent’s authority.
Any anxiety induced by the dismissals of Bell-Drummond and Sam Northeast, who succumbed in quick succession to Gregory and van Meekeren respectively, was dispelled by the arrival of England international Billings, who scored at better than a run a ball from the outset. But Somerset stuck to their task and the introduction of Groenewald saw Denly hole out to deep midwicket for 33, leaving the visitors needing a further 77 from 60 balls with seven wickets in hand.
Veteran Darren Stevens offered a return catch to van der Merve to give Somerset renewed hope, but Billings batted with supreme assurance throughout a measured innings that yielded three fours and three sixes and helped keep the required rate in check. Billings brought up his fifty in grand manner, clearing the rope at Groenewald’s expense as Kent cruised to victory.
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