SOMERSET head coach Jason Kerr admitted that "we were not at our best with bat or ball", after seeing his team make a losing start to their T20 campaign for 2021.

Essex Eagles were the visitors to the Cooper Associates County Ground for this opening Vitality Blast fixture, and they came away from Taunton with a three-wicket victory thanks to Jimmy Neesham's explosive 53.

Ben Green had top scored with 43 off 30 balls as the hosts posted 185-7 after losing the toss, but the most explosive batting came from the experienced James Hildreth - promoted to opener - as he hammered 39 off just 17 deliveries.

In reply, the Eagles recovered from a poor start to reach their target with seven balls to spare, as New Zealand international Neesham blasted a half-century off 23 balls, with seven fours and two sixes. 

The opening power play of the season at Taunton saw Somerset plunder 57 off the first three overs, and only 11 from the next three. 

Tom Banton and Hildreth set off at blistering pace, with Banton smacking Aron Nijar for a six over mid-wicket in the opening over, which cost 14. 

Jack Plom conceded 33 off the third over, as Hildreth hit successive sixes over long-on, in addition to four fours and two no-balls, to the delight of the Somerset members making up the 1,900-strong crowd. 

But it was a different story after the two openers fell in the same over, bowled by Sam Cook (3-15), with both caught off attempted pull shots; Banton’s 18 had been scored off seven balls. 

Wickets fell steadily as, despite Eddie Byrom’s well-constructed 28, Somerset subsided to 144-6 after 17 overs. 

It took Green’s three sixes and one from Marchant de Lange to provide a late boost for the hosts. 

Tom Westley and Adam Wheater then fell cheaply to Jack Brooks and Josh Davey in the first 13 balls of the Essex reply. 

Michael Pepper launched two powerful straight sixes before being caught behind off Davey for 18, and after six overs the Eagles were 51-3. 

That was 88-3 by the halfway stage, tall left-hander Paul Walter (45) looking increasingly assured as he pulled Roelof van der Merwe over mid-wicket for six. 

Ryan ten Doeschate was dropped on 23, but added only three before edging de Lange (3-35) through to wicketkeeper Banton. 

Walter’s impressive contribution ended when he holed out to long-off to give Davey (3-39) a third wicket, but Neesham responded with a six and a four off the next two balls. 

The New Zealander then smashed three fours and a six off the 15th over, bowled by leg-spinner Max Waller, and by the time he became one of two de Lange victims in the 18th over momentum had swung decisively the Eagles’ way. 

Plom ended proceedings with a six off Davey.

Afterwards, Kerr reflected: "We were not at our best with bat or ball.

"It has been a failing in recent seasons that we lose wickets in clusters, and some of the dismissals tonight were cheap on a good wicket.

"You cannot afford that in tight T20 games.

"We should have put 220 on the board from the start we made and fell way short of that.

"Then, while some of our bowling was good, there was some really poor stuff as well."

Somerset will look to bounce back tomorrow (Friday, 6.30pm), as Surrey visit Taunton.