Tom Abell's late-surging 78* off 45 balls takes Somerset to Finals Day

Tom Abell’s late-surging 78* off 45 balls takes Somerset to Finals Day

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Hosts defeat Lancashire by seven wickets at Taunton as van der Merwe claims 4 for 27

Somerset 185 for 3 (Abell 78*, Lammonby 47*, Smeed 44) beat Lancashire 184 for 9 (Vilas 42, Jones 38*, Bohannon 35, van der Merwe 4-27, de Lange 3-41) by seven wickets

Measured, incisive, innovative. Tom Abell looked out of his depth in Somerset’s T20 side three years ago but has transformed himself into one of England’s top uncapped batters in the format and his late-surging 78 not out off 45 balls took them to Finals Day for the first time since 2018.
Somerset were 12 for 2 chasing 185 when Abell walked out at No. 4 to make his first county appearance for two-and-a-half months following a hamstring injury and Hundred duty and he struggled early on. He ground his way to 33 off 27 balls, Lancashire strangling the chase with spin through the middle overs, but his acceleration through the latter stages saw Somerset home with 11 balls to spare. He lofted inside-out over extra cover, swept and reverse-swept, and short-arm jabbed pull shots over the short leg-side boundary, before letting out a roar of celebration after Tom Lammonby scrambled through for the winning single that showed how much it had meant to him.

“I wasn’t having much fun in T20 cricket three years ago,” Abell said, “so I had to try and find a role that would suit me which was coming in during the middle overs. I like to play situations. I’m not a big-hitter – I don’t necessarily have that power game that a lot of guys do so I’ve just got to find ways to score.

“That’s what T20 is about, you have to score quickly. I’ve got a bit more clarity about my options now so I just try to stick to my strengths. I had the worst net I’ve ever had yesterday but I just tried to stay in the game and take good, low-risk options. I was intent on making sure I saw the game through and it’s an unbelievable feeling which I can’t explain.”

Abell found support from Will Smeed, whose 44 off 33 included a six that landed on the roof of the retirement flats, and Lammonby, who overcame a slow start of his own to seal the game, putting on an unbroken 102 with Abell for the fourth wicket. He was dropped at midwicket before he had got going and Lancashire will reflect that their fielding might have cost them – though they had the worst of conditions, desperately scrambling around in the dew.

They will justifiably feel aggrieved that Abell was there at the end, too. Immediately after he had brought up his half-century, from 32 balls, Luke Wells struck him on the pad with a non-turning legbreak and belted out an appeal that lasted for the best part of 10 seconds. Sky Sports had ball-tracking technology with them which showed it would have slid on and crashed into leg stump but it was not available to the umpires. Abell hit 26 off his next 12 balls.

Dane Vilas, Lancashire’s captain, was frustrated. “Maybe it’s something we could look at in big games like this in the future,” he suggested. “We’ve got all the technology that we’ve used in the Hundred and I don’t see why we couldn’t use it here as well.” He was without a number of first-team players through injury (Luke Wood and Keaton Jennings), international duty (Finn Allen, Jos Buttler and Saqib Mahmood) and Covid-19 (Matt Parkinson) and their absence proved costly.

Nowhere does T20 nights quite like Taunton. There were around 7,000 fans in attendance, the first full house here in two years, and the short boundaries and flat pitches mean batters save the date for their games here when the fixtures are released. Mind you, Liam Livingstone appears to have done that with every venue he has played as part of his travelling six-hitting roadshow this summer.

Livingstone is the in-form T20 batter in the world and he knows it. He has recently been dubbed ‘The Beast’ and has such a supreme confidence in his ability to clear any boundary in the world at the moment that he lined up the short side from the first ball he faced. He mishit his first two sixes, one landing in the Somerset Stand at midwicket and the other in the River Tone, but his third was a clean pick-up over cow corner that pinged into the balcony of a retirement flat.

He was on 25 off 9 balls when Lewis Gregory threw the ball to Roelof van der Merwe and it was The Bulldog who got The Beast. He speared in a 58mph/94kph yorker which Livingstone tried to loft back over his head, but van der Merwe held onto a sharp return catch then celebrated with his nerves bulging and eyes popping out of their sockets. On another night Livingstone might have been entitled to stand his ground and remind the fielding captain that the crowd had gone to watch him bat; not in a knockout game at the Blast’s spiritual home.

Van der Merwe struck again in his first over, skidding one onto Alex Davies’ front pad, leaving Josh Bohannon – playing his first Blast game of the season with Finn Allen in self-isolation in Bangladesh and Keaton Jennings ruled out with a calf injury – to rebuild with Vilas. But there is hardly time to at the world’s highest-scoring T20 venue: Bohannon was smartly stumped by Tom Banton for a 20-ball 35 after belting Marchant de Lange for consecutive fours through midwicket and Vilas was soon up and running with a pair of sixes.

After van der Merwe’s fourth wicket, a stumping that Banton nearly fumbled after Wells ran past one, it was the full toss that proved deadly. Vilas was reprieved after chipping a waist-high one to deep square leg that was belatedly called as no-ball, before Lammonby and de Lange (three times) all struck with him. Rob Jones’ scoop-filled cameo of 38 off 27 dragged them up past 180 but it looked under-par. They managed 50 off the last seven overs and just 11 off the last two and that slow finish cost them badly.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98