Hampshire suffered a disappointing six-wicket defeat to Somerset in the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup final at Lord’s.
The south-west county ended a 14-year wait for a major trophy – during which time they have finished as runners-up on 10 occasions across different formats – with an all-round performance to savour.
The Somerset bowlers, led by man-of-the-match Jamie Overton’s three for 48, set up victory with a miserly display that restricted a Hampshire to 244 for eight before Tom Banton went about confirming his status as one of English cricket’s most promising young talents.
The 20-year-old muscled his way to 69 from 67 balls as he took the lead role in a century opening stand with former Pakistan captain Azhar Ali that effectively broke the back of the pursuit.
Banton was just six years of age when Somerset won their last major trophy, the 2005 Twenty20 Cup, with a squad that included his current team-mate James Hildreth.
It was Hildreth who saw his side home – as he had done in that Twenty20 final as a 20-year-old himself – with an unbeaten 69 to cue the long-awaited Somerset celebrations.
The relief of victory was clearly evident for veterans Hildreth, Peter Trego and Marcus Trescothick – watching on from the Lord’s Pavilion in his capacity as a coach for this tournament – and amongst the Somerset fans who had made the journey from Taunton this morning as they earned rich reward in a Lord’s showpiece after a decade of near misses.
That it was one of their next great hopes in Banton, and Jamie Overton who is on loan to Northamptonshire in the Specsavers County Championship, that played such an integral role would not have been lost on them or any neutral observer who witnessed the power and conviction they displayed in a final atmosphere.
Banton had made a century in the play-off win against Worcestershire – his second of the tournament – and revelled again under the pressure. Where Hampshire had failed to clear the rope until the final over Banton needed only until the third over to swat Fidel Edwards’ express pace over the square-leg rope and with it shake away any tension his side might have felt.
With Azhar, a batsman with 18 international centuries to his name, content to play a complementary role they shared a 112-run opening stand that set Somerset on their way.
There was a brief wobble, when Edwards returned with a fiery spell as Hampshire made one last effort to find a way back, as Banton edged behind before Azhar was wrong-footed by a short ball he could only pop to midwicket.
Trego then wore a couple of early blows from the West Indian quick but, with fellow veteran Hildreth steadfast alongside him, they saw out the danger in a 49-run stand.
Hildreth pushed on and deserving hit the winning runs, with 6.3 overs to spare, to perfectly bookmark Somerset’s past two trophy successes.
Hampshire had lost wickets too regularly during their innings with the tone set after they slipped to 50 for three as Josh Davey was rewarded for an excellent new-ball spell in cloudy morning conditions.
Signs that it might be Somerset’s day were set when, a ball after Hildreth dropped Tom Alsop at first slip, the Hampshire opener obliging offered immediate redemption for Hildreth who took up the offer with a relieved smirk on his face.
Hampshire could ill afford such early mis-steps in the absence of James Vince and Aiden Markram, their leading runscorers in the competition, on World Cup duty and when they lost Joe Weatherley it reinforced the importance of stand-in captain Sam Northeast and Rilee Rossouw.
Rossouw was the star of Hampshire’s victory over Kent in last year’s final, when his 125 earned man-of-the-match honours, and picked up where he left of as he raced to 28 from 17 balls with six boundaries.
The South African would not replicate his Lord’s heroics, however, inside-edging Jamie Overton onto his stumps and prompting Northeast into a stabilisation effort as he reached a half-century from 85 balls.
But as Northeast began to regather the innings Gareth Berg was undone by the bounce of Jamie Overton, to be caught at fine leg, before Northeast’s concentration momentarily lapsed when he aimed a heave at the medium pace of Tom Abell and saw his leg stump pined back.
Jamie Overton and Abell struck again in quick time to leave Hampshire 180 for eight and while James Fuller, who hit his maiden half-century, and Mason Crane ensured a defendable total with an enterprising and unbroken 64-run stand, it was not enough.