SOMERSET gave their hopes of making the knockout stages of this season's Vitality Blast a real shot in the arm, as Babar Azam's third 50 in the competition helped his side crush Essex by 114 runs at Chelmsford.

This was the Pakistan star's first half-century away from Taunton, and with Tom Banton, Tom Abell and Eddie Byrom also scoring well, Somerset posted 225-6 - their joint sixth highest T20 total.

The Essex reply made a sluggish start and never recovered from Roelof van der Merwe claiming three wickets in four balls, as the hosts were eventually all out for 111.

On winning the toss, Somerset's exciting opening partnership of Banton and Babar set to work, the former taking 22 runs off Aaron Beard's first over.

They put on 51 for the first wicket, from just 26 balls, before Ravi Bopara removed both Banton (39) and James Hildreth.

Babar continued his efficient work, however, making 56 and sharing a stand of 79 runs with captain Abell (45), until Bopara (3-18) dismissed the opener.

With four overs to go, Somerset had 156-4 and it looked like 200 would be a good score; enter the in-form Byrom.

Dropped on 10, he made Essex pay by smashing three maximums off one Mohammad Amir over on his way to a quick-fire 44.

Another couple of sixes from Craig Overton took the visitors to 225-6, with 96 of those runs coming from the final 24 balls.

Essex openers Cameron Delport (20) and Tom Westley (22) kept at around the rate for four overs, but after their departures it all went wrong for the home side.

Ryan ten Doeschate, Bopara and Paul Walter all departed in a single van der Merwe over, as he ended with career-best figures of 5-32.

His fellow spinner Max Waller chipped in with 3-26 as Essex lost eight wickets in 31 balls, to fall well short of the required runs.

The result sees Somerset overtake Essex for sixth place in the South Group of the Blast, ahead of Friday's match at Hampshire and Saturday's game at home to Kent (both 7pm starts).