Mahela Jayawardene hit his 21st List A century as Somerset cruised into the semi-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup with a crushing nine-wicket victory over Worcestershire Rapids at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
A one-sided contest saw the visitors bowled out for a meagre 210, with only Moeen Ali (81) and Daryl Mitchell (64) making any impression. Both fell to Peter Trego (three for 33) and there were two wickets each for Craig Overton and Josh Davey.
Under no pressure to score quickly, Jayawadene (117 not out) and Jim Allenby (81) replied with an opening stand of 188 in 33.1 overs, guiding the hosts towards victory with more than 13 overs to spare.
It was Jayawardene’s first hundred for Somerset, his previous best score since joining the county for the NatWest T20 Blast being 55. The former Sri Lanka Captain hit 14 fours and two sixes in a batting masterclass.
Allenby gave solid support, hitting 10 fours and a six in his 96-ball innings, as no Worcestershire bowler could find any penetration on the used pitch that had seen their side bowled out inside 43 overs.
The skipper eventually top-edged a sweep off Moeen to deep backward square with the job almost done. It was Somerset’s seventh win in the competition this season, having won the South Group, and their bowlers could take much of the credit.
Worcestershire were never able to get much momentum after winning the toss as Overton and Davey, playing in place of the injured Tim Groenewald, produced accurate opening six-over spells, which reduced the Rapids to 40 for three.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore was brilliantly caught at slip by Jayawardene off Overton while Davey struck twice in one over, removing Tom Fell to a catch at backward point and Joe Clarke, who chipped tamely to mid-wicket.
Moeen and Mitchell then put the pitch in perspective with a stand of 113 in 19.4 overs, Moeen continuing his Test Match form with an elegant 76-ball innings, which featured 10 fours and a six.
He survived just one run out scare before miscuing a pull shot off Trego and being caught by Max Waller at deep mid-wicket.
At 175 for four with 17 overs to go, Worcestershire looked reasonably placed. However Mitchell, who had played the perfect supporting role to Moeen with a 67-ball half-century was then well caught above his head by the retreating Davey at mid-off to give Trego his second wicket.
It sparked a collapse, with Ross Whiteley caught behind in the same over and Ben Cox quickly falling to Lewis Gregory. The last hope was Brett D’Oliveira and when he fell to Overton for 21 the innings was in tatters.
Joe Leach managed 20 before being run out by Roelof van der Merwe, who wrapped things up by pinning Jack Shantry leg before. There were more than seven overs still available and the total looked 70 below par. So it proved.
Soon after hitting the winning runs to see Somerset to victory Mahela Jayawardene said: “This is a really big moment for me because when I came to the County it was all about winning matches and taking them all the way. They are a great bunch of guys so it’s great to be able to contribute to a quarter final win and to be a part of that.”
Talking about the reception he was given when he reached his century Mahela said: “The fans here have been fantastic and they are 100% behind the Club win or lose. There is a great culture here so it’s nice to keep on doing well and contributing to winning matches. The fans appreciate their cricket so it’s great to be a part of that.
Talking about his opening partner Mahela said: “Jim took the pressure off me when I first batted for the first five or six overs. He looked like he was batting on a different wicket and kept the boundaries coming. Once I found my rhythm it was much easier and we complimented each other out there in the middle. We took out different bowlers and rotated the strike well and when you are facing a small total you need a good start, which we got.”
Winning captain Jim Allenby said: “It was very special to be able to bat with Mahela for so long. For me to spend so much time out there with him was fantastic and it’s great that someone of my age is still learning.”
Talking about the winning run the side has enjoyed in the Royal London One-Day Cup Jim said: “I think its one loss in 13 in this format and fair play to Matt Maynard who decided to give the young players a bigger part to play. We are probably seeing the results of that this year as we did at the end of last season. It’s a very exciting time here with us being one game away from Lord’s and two away from the trophy. There is a big buzz about the place and we have got a lot of good players who are coming into form at the right time.
“I think we are getting there, although we are not there yet. So to get to a Lord’s final would be fantastic.
Finally would Mahela be coming back for the rest of the tournament? “Unfortunately I wont be able to be here for the semi-final,” the Sri Lankan said. “Initially I only signed for the group stages and I have extended it for this match. However, I have faith in the boys that they will make it through to the final and if they make it then hopefully I can make a trip back.”
Somerset will travel to Edgbaston to take on Warwickshire in the semi-final. Further details will be announced in due course.