Chris Gayle wound up his six-match stint in Taunton by helping Somerset to a six-wicket victory over Hampshire at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
It was also the West Indian’s highest score of the English summer and his most controlled innings too. Having come into the game with 125 runs in his previous four innings, Gayle played with control, to guide Somerset to their third NatWest T20 Blast victory of the summer.
Mahela Jayawardene played his part too with an unbeaten 45 as Somerset won with 4.2 overs to spare.
Having been asked to bat first, Hampshire were soon in trouble thanks to an ill-advised attempt at a quick single by Tom Alsop. The 20-year-old left hander hit the ball straight to Jamie Overton at mid off and set off for a run that was never on. Michael Carberry stood his ground and Alsop was run out by two yards, at 8 for 1, in the second over.
Carberry helped himself to 17 before top edging a short ball from Overton to Tim Groenewald at third man and seven runs later, it was 32 for 3. England batsman James Vince had only just reached double figures when Overton found his outside edge and Ryan Davies took a regulation catch. Adam Wheater and Liam Dawson added 24 for the fourth wicket before Max Waller dismissed the former with a clever piece of bowling from the River End. Sensing Wheater’s desire to use his feet, he sent a quicker delivery down the leg side where wicket keeper Davies was waiting to execute the most perfect stumping. Will Smith departed off the next ball, lbw to Waller and Hampshire were 56 for 5.
Sean Ervine was sixth out, at 88, once again stumped by Davies off Waller and although Shahid Afridi and Dawson put on 34 for the seventh wicket, Hampshire were soon back in trouble, with their final four wickets falling for nine runs. Dawson, who was run out by Johann Myburgh, at 125 for 8, finished as Hampshire’s leading scorer with 46 from 34 balls with four fours and a six.
Overton finished off the visitors by taking the wickets of Gareth Berg and Darren Sammy. Waller, back in the side at the expense of Yasir Arafat, finished with 4 for 33 off his four overs while Overton returned the impressive figures of 4 for 22 off 3.3 overs.
Somerset lost captain Jim Allenby and Peter Trego inside the opening five overs, for four and eight respectively, before Gayle and Mahela Jayawardene took up the challenge and took Somerset into a winning position with 67 for the third wicket.
Gayle, who passed 50 off 37 balls, with four fours and three sixes, was eventually bowled by Smith for 52 at 95 for 3, leaving Jayawardene and Lewis Gregory to ease the host county to victory in the 16th over.
Afterwards a clearly delighted Jim Allenby said: “With three wins out of three at home in this competition we have to be happy and it hasn’t just been that we have just won, it’s the way that we have played which makes me really happy. Today we really got it right the whole way through the game with the bowling and the fielding. We know that when we get that right then we have just about one of the best attacks in the country. When we field like that and bowl like that and have that enthusiasm then I think we are a really good side. We just need to remember it and do it every time!
“It was a really good pitch here today and how we kept them to 130 I don’t know but there was a lot of skill from our bowlers. The rain helped us skid own a little bit but we are getting guys in form at the right time now. Obviously Chris goes so Mahela becomes even more important and the rest of us need to lift as well. I have no doubt that we will do that as a batting group and if we just keep bowling and fielding like that then we should be ok.”
Shortly after the game Chris Gayle said: “It’s not a bad way to sign off, with a half century, a catch, a Man of the Match Award and two points for the team. We got the result so everything went really well and hopefully we can build on that platform.”
“I have really enjoyed my time here again and the atmosphere has been fantastic. As you can see, the fans are still waiting for me to sign autographs and take selfies. I can’t complain. This is the best send off that I could have had from Somerset. Apart from the first game that was very poor I have felt that I have got into the spirit. Hopefully the team can get to the final a get the chance of a trophy.”
“I like the interaction that I have had with the fans here. If the ball comes trickling towards me they cheer for that which is pretty thrilling to me and pleasing to see how they actually love what I do on the field, so it’s great to have that impact on the people. I am happy they enjoyed it and we got the result and Somerset will always have a place in my heart.”