Baker Cup final

Taunton St Andrew’s 145-8 beat Taunton 141-9 by four runs

TAUNTON St Andrew's lifted the 2019 Baker Cup after a narrow victory over Taunton in a hard-fought final at the Cooper Associates County Ground.

Somerset's Tom Banton blasted 84 and then took two wickets - including the key scalp of his county captain Tom Abell - while man of the match James Hayman claimed 4-17 and bowled nervelessly at the death.

Saints skipper James Regan opted to bat upon winning the toss but he was soon heading back to the pavilion when, on five, he chipped a return catch back to James Clark, who opened the bowling with his left-arm spin.

Toby Williams-Thomas (9) then saw his off stump knocked over by paceman James Hayes and the Saints were struggling at 14-2.

Scoring was not easy on a slow, used wicket but Banton - as Taunton may have feared - was operating on a different level.

The in-form Somerset man rode his luck at times but also produced moments of sheer class.

Banton reverse-swept Clark for successive boundaries and lofted a straight six as the two close friends went head to head, and he greeted Tom Abell with an audacious scoop for six from the Somerset skipper's second delivery.

With little in the way of support – George Thomas (15) was the only other batsman to reach double figures before falling to Max Toohey, two of several promising young players on show - the Saints innings depended on Banton and he offered just one half-chance (and even that is slightly harsh) as a pull shot went through Hugh Kelly at mid-wicket having travelled like an tracer bullet off the bat.

Having reached 84, with eight fours and five sixes, Banton eventually fell when he lofted Easterfield to George Rowe at long-off.

Easterfield went on to claim two further wickets and finished with 3-19 as the Saints posted 145-8 from their 20 overs. 

St Andrew's also opened the bowling with a spinner but it was the pace of Hayman which brought about two early breakthroughs.

Charles Clist (4) was first to go, mis-timing a pull which was excellently caught low down by a diving Kevin Parsons at mid-wicket, and his opening partner Jesse Vertonghen (7) was then caught behind.

That brought the Abell brothers, Will and Tom, together at 13-2 with plenty of work to do.

The pair complemented each other nicely as they embarked on the repair job. Will was the aggressor, finding the boundary with several sweetly-timed off drives, while Tom rotated the strike with ease as the siblings ran superbly between the wickets.

Will Abell was four short of a deserved half century when he took on the spin of Luke Poole and succeeded only in picking out Hayman on the long-off boundary.

Tom Abell became the key figure and, with five overs to go, Taunton needed 38 to win with seven wickets in hand.

It was then that Banton had an impact with the ball, luring Abell (37) into a rare loose shot as he took on his Somerset teammate and provided Harry Clements with a simple catch at long-on; a wicket, one imagines, that Banton may not let his skipper forget for some time.

Banton got through Dan Quick’s (11) defences two balls later and, with the light fading, suddenly the Saints were back in the driving seat.

James Clark swept Banton for four, exacting some measure of revenge on his school pal, before he too fell caught on the straight boundary for 10 and the last over began with Taunton needing 12.

Hayman delivered it and the first ball was lofted straight up by Taunton skipper Hugh Kelly (11), with Regan holding the catch.

Easterfield was then run out coming back for a second and George Rowe was clean bowled, meaning James Hayes’ on-drive for four from the final ball was too little, too late for Taunton.

It was a close match befitting of a Baker Cup final, played in good spirit in front of a healthy crowd as both sets of players relished the occasion.

Victorious St Andrew’s captain James Regan said: “It was a brilliant game and it was great to see so many people out here. I’ve never seen a Baker Cup final with this many people.

“It ebbed and flowed both ways and credit to the way Taunton bowled up top.

“We had an innings from an extraordinarily talented young man which took the game away from them and our young lads did really well.”

For a full scorecard, click here.