A century from Tom Abell helped Somerset to secure home advantage in the quarter finals of the Royal London Cup after victory over Sussex.
The young batsman batted without equal to score 106 off 117 balls, as Somerset held off a late revival from the Sussex tail-enders, to win by 10 runs.
Somerset, having chosen to bat first, might have felt this was not to be their day having slipped to 15 for 2 inside four overs. Mahela Jayawardene (3) and Peter Trego (0) were the men out as 21-year-old Jofra Archer put Sussex in a commanding early position.
Jim Allenby’s quickfire 30 was the dominant feature in a 32-run stand with Abell, for the third wicket. However, when the captain departed, once again off the bowling of Archer, Somerset were back in trouble at 47 for 3.
Despite the mounting pressure, Abell batted with great maturity and with the help of one or two middle order partners, took Somerset to a score that was respectable, if not altogether satisfactory.
He added 70 for the fourth wicket with James Hildreth (26) and 42 for the eighth with Craig Overton. Although Lewis Gregory and Ryan Davies chipped in with useful runs, it was Abell who led the way. He posted his second List A fifty without too many alarms and finally passed three figures for the first time in one-day cricket, off 107 balls with nine fours and a six.
Ten balls later he was run out for a fine 106 as Somerset crept towards the 250 mark. In the end they fell 13 runs short of that milestone when Tim Groenewald became Archer’s fifth wicket at 237. Archer finished with the impressive figures of 5 for 42 off 9.1 overs.
Although the 50-over season has been something of a damp squib for Sussex they would certainly have fancied their chances of posting a second win of the campaign.
Somerset, however had different ideas and with Groenewald and Josh Davey leading from the front with the ball, the visitors found themselves well and truly in trouble.
Opening batsman Philip Salt departed in the second over, without scoring, lbw to Davey, before Harry Finch (12) was run out by the man of the moment Abell at 25 for 2. It got worse for the visitors when captain Luke Wright became Groenewald’s first victim at 59 for 3, and after Chris Nash had been trapped lbw first ball by Gregory, Groenewald returned to pick up the important wickets of Ed Joyce (39) and wicket keeper Ben Brown (11).
When Chris Jordan became Trego’s first victim at 95 for 7, Sussex were heading for a landslide defeat. However, Archer and Ajmal Shahzad added 61 for the eighth wicket to leave Somerset wondering whether 237 would be enough. Archer, having struck two fours and as many sixes in his 35, was eventually bowled by Max Waller, who also took the wicket of Shahzad (39) at 175 for 9.
Will Beer (33 not out) and Danny Briggs (23 not out) did their bit to keep Sussex in with a chance of victory, adding an unbeaten 52 for the last wicket. However, it was not to be and in the end, Somerset kept their cool to not only make sure of victory, but to secure a home tie in the last eight.
After the match Tom Abell said: “It doesn’t get much better than that! I feel absolutely chuffed for the whole squad and the Club and this win means a home quarter final so it has been a really good day. I think it was a good wicket and they bowled really well to give credit to them. However, we kept losing wickets and couldn’t build any partnerships going into the back end of the innings.
“But you know cricket is a funny game and we thought we were under par but then we came out and bowled brilliantly and were absolutely awesome in the field. Credit to all the bowlers and it bodes well for us moving forward. When I came in I tried to play in the situation I was in and play the anchor role. I tried to bat through and allow our stroke players to play around me and I guess in the end it was a decent enough score.
“I’m not sure that I have all the shots in the book like some people, but for me it was about trying to reduce the risk but still scoring. My one-day options are something I have worked really hard on and I’m just glad that I was able to contribute to the team winning. It’s been a great day for Somerset cricket. I grew up here and this has brought back memories of when I used to come and watch the games. The crowd were awesome and it does give you that extra little bit when they are right behind you, so I am just absolutely delighted about today.
Winning captain Jim Allenby said: “I didn’t think that we had enough runs at the break and we were probably 60-70 under par. It’s been another brilliant cricket pitch here and Simon Lee (SCCC Head Groundsman) has produced some great wickets for us, kept more grass on them this year and it has played so well. A few of us chucked our wickets away up front and it was only Tom’s hundred that kept us in the game.”
Talking about the bowling Jim said: “What I do expect is for us to fight and make it tough and we did that and to be honest it was just a special performance the whole way through. The bowling and fielding was of the highest class.”