Chris Gayle’s return to the NatWest T20 Blast was overshadowed by a hundred from Chris Nash as Sussex Sharks beat Somerset at Hove to make it two wins from two in the South Group.
Nash’s first T20 century – 112 not out from 64 balls – helped his side to 222 for four then Gayle was yorked for five by a delivery timed at 93mph from left-armer Tymal Mills.
Roelof van der Merwe made a defiant 59 and Mahela Jayawardene 51 but Somerset were bowled out in the last over for 174 to lose by 48 runs.
Nash and captain Luke Wright laid the platform for Sussex’s second 200-plus total of their Blast campaign with a stand of 156 in 14 overs for the first wicket. Wright did not hit the first six of the innings until in the seventh over but it signalled an onslaught by the Sussex batsmen who plundered 90 off the next eight overs.
Nash was first to his half-century but he was soon overtaken by his partner, who eventually found his timing in his first game of the season after recovering from back and wrist injuries.
Wright’s 83 came from just 39 balls and included five sixes and eight fours as he harnessed a strong wind and targeted the Sea End boundary. He eventually played on to Max Waller and Sussex lost Ross Taylor (1) in the next over, caught at long on off a mis-timed drive.
Nash pressed on and Matt Machan (12) gave him good support in a third-wicket stand of 51 from 28 balls. He reached his hundred in the 19th over by hitting Overton over long on for six before gliding the next ball to the backward point rope. He finished with 13 boundaries and three sixes from 64 balls faced whilst Overton took 2 for 45.
An asking rate of more than 11 runs an over was always going to test Somerset and they suffered an immediate blow when Ajmal Shahzad bowled Jim Allenby for a duck with the first legitimate delivery of the innings.
However, the big moment came in the next over when Mills, with the strong wind at his back, began to bowl consistently at more than 90mph. Gayle guided one ball over the slips for four but when he stepped away trying to hit the next delivery through the off side he was bowled, much to the delight of a 5,500 crowd.
Sussex’s other seamers complemented Mills’ raw pace. South African David Wiese picked up 4 for 38 on his debut and Shahzad ended Somerset’s hopes when he had Jayawardene caught at long on for 51 from 39 balls in the 11th over.
After the match Jim Allenby said: “You have to give credit to Sussex. They made it pretty tough for us all the way through. We conceded too many runs and I made a few captaincy mistakes which I will get right. Chasing such a big target we needed runs from our top three and when that didn’t happen it was always going to be tough.”
Director of Cricket Matt Maynard said: “We didn’t have a great start to the game when we put down a couple of chances, which set the tone.
“Sussex batted really well and they had another 150 partnership against us. It’s just not quite happening for us, some of the balls are going in the air but not quite finding fielders. However this will change and as long as the boys keep on working and believing, that is the key thing for us.
“Chasing a target of 220 you need a good start and we didn’t get that. Sussex bowled well for the first six overs. On the positive side however I thought that Mahela was fantastic, Lewis Gregory had a great game with bat and ball and of course Roelof van der Merwe played well. I thought Ryan Davies did well behind the stumps and Jamie Overton did a good job in tough conditions bowling into the wind and he put in a good stint today as did Pete Trego in the field.
“I am sure we will turn things around pretty quickly and we are looking forward to getting home, the weather warming up a little bit and getting all of the guys firing.”