Royal London One-Day Cup - South Group
Essex (334-6) beat Somerset (262) by 72 runs
A POOR batting display saw Somerset lose their grip on top spot in the South Group as Essex completed a 72-run victory in Taunton to leapfrog their hosts at the summit.
Tom Westley (100), Ravi Bopara (92*) and Alastair Cook (65) all starred with the bat as the visitors ended on 334-6, while Somerset’s reply faded badly after a blistering 28-ball 57 from Johann Myburgh had got them off to a flyer.
Somerset captain Jim Allenby won the toss and chose to field on a sunny morning in Taunton, a decision that initially looked justified as Craig Overton trapped Varun Chopra lbw for 13 with the last ball of the fourth over.
That brought Alastair Cook and Tom Westley together, a duo who had both scored heavily in Essex’s County Championship victory on this ground in April, and together they progressed serenely to set the visitors on their way to a promising total.
Cook continued his prolific form in the competition, looking particularly strong off the back foot as he passed 50 for the third time in his last six matches, while Westley also reached his half century as the pair’s partnership passed 100 in 16 overs.
Jamie Overton was belatedly brought into the attack in the 24th over and made an instant impact, as Cook flashed at a wide delivery and edged through to Steve Davies.
Ravi Bopara joined Westley, who was accelerating well and hit big sixes in consecutive overs as he accelerated towards his first century of the season.
He reached the milestone from his 95th delivery, an innings which included 10 fours and two 6s, but fell for exactly 100 soon afterwards as he was clean bowled by Roelof van der Merwe.
Visiting captain Ryan ten Doeschate fell the same way in the spinner’s next over, but Ashar Zaidi joined Bopara and helped add 88 for the sixth wicket in just under 10 overs as the pair combined ingenuity with brute force towards the end of the innings.
Zaidi’s attacking approach eventually saw him dismissed for 32 as Adam Hose took an excellent catch on the boundary off the bowling of Craig Overton, but Bopara hit the same bowler for a huge straight six from the final ball of the innings to take his own score to 92 and set Somerset a challenging target of 335 to win.
Roelof van der Merwe topped the bill for the hosts with 2-67 and Craig Overton (2-79) also claimed two wickets, though his brother Jamie (1-40) could perhaps have bowled more than the seven overs he was given.
Somerset’s run chase started with a huge let off as Paul Walter spilled a sitter at mid-on before Johann Myburgh had scored, and the opener cashed in on his reprieve in some style.
The 36-year-old reached his half century – 48 of which came in boundaries - from just 26 deliveries, but perished two balls later when he picked out Varun Chopra on the deep mid-wicket boundary.
Peter Trego went softly soon afterwards, caught at cover for five, before Steve Davies – back in place of namesake Ryan after recovering from a neck injury – hit three nicely struck boundaries on his way to 20.
Just as he looked well set for an overdue score, however, the wicketkeeper-batsman was out to a dreadful shot as he slogged across the line of a Harmer delivery and was clean bowled.
James Hildreth (14) followed as Somerset were reduced to 149-4, though life was sparked in to the run chase as in-form duo Jim Allenby and Adam Hose added 53 for the fifth wicket to take the home side past 200.
A tantalising finale was in prospect, but Somerset proceeded to collapse as Allenby chipped to cover for 77 before Hose was clean bowled by the impressive Harmer to leave Somerset languishing on 212-6.
Jamie Overton provided the briefest of cameos, smashing a six over long on before brainlessly attempting the same shot two balls later and picking out Ravi Bopara, and an already tough ask became nigh-on impossible when Roelof van der Merwe was caught behind for eight.
Craig Overton and Tim Groenewald provided some late fireworks, but the latter was caught on the boundary and Overton was then run out as Essex completed a comfortable victory.
Despite losing top spot, results elsewhere have guaranteed Somerset a knockout play-off at the very least – they will ensure a home tie in that play-off with victory against Middlesex at Lord’s on Wednesday.