Somerset v Essex Eagles
The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Somerset: Tom Banton (wk), James Hildreth, Roelof van der Merwe, Tom Abell, Eddie Byrom, Lewis Gregory (c), Marchant de Lange, Josh Davey, Jack Brooks, Max Waller, Ben Green.
Essex Eagles: Tom Westley, Adam Wheater (wk), Michael Pepper, Paul Walter, Ryan ten Doeschate, Jimmy Neesham, Simon Harmer (c), Jack Plom, Aron Nijjar, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter.
Umpires: Michael Burns & Russell Warren
Toss: Essex Eagles who elected to field
Result: Essex Eagles win by 3 wickets
Match Reaction: Anthony McGrath
Jimmy Neesham made an immediate impression by blasting his way to a half-century that paved the way for the Eagles three-wicket victory in the Vitality Blast contest with Somerset at Taunton.
Replying to the home side’s 185 for 7, he arrived at the crease with his side 102 for 4 in the 11th over but the Kiwi soon decided to dictate matters. He changed his bat after facing one ball and wielded the replacement willow with purposeful effect.
Having got his bearing on the compact Taunton venue, Neesham unleashed a flurry of runs off-spinner Max Waller when taking two fours and a six off successive balls. By the end of the 15th over, the Eagles had moved on to 140 for 5.
Striking the ball cleanly, Neesham reached his half-century from 23 balls with the seventh boundary of his innings having also struck two sixes.
With Simon Harmer, 67 were accrued in 4.3 overs as Essex closed in on victory. Both batsmen were dismissed in successive balls with the total on 176 but with two overs remaining and 12 runs required, Jack Plom pulled a delivery from Josh Davey over the mid-wicket boundary for a maximum to seal the win.
Earlier, Paul Walter had played responsibly to post 45 from 30 balls, figuring in stands of 32 with Michael Pepper (18) and 55 in 6 overs with Ryan ten Doeschate who had scored 26 when he nicked behind to the wicket-keeper.
Walter’s departure left Neesham to take centre-stage and the New Zealander grabbed the spotlight in impressive fashion to underpin the win.
In front of a crowd of approximately 1,900, Sam Cook returned figures of 3 for 14 to reel back Somerset, who had raced to 62 in 3.5 overs after being put into bat, before the bowler struck twice in a single over to apply the brakes.
After openers James Hildreth and Tom Banton had taken 24 off the first two overs, the third over of the innings proved a rich harvest for the pair with Plom bearing the brunt of the openers’ onslaught.
Plom conceded 33 runs in his eight-ball over that included two no balls as Hildreth lashed out with freedom. On three occasions in the over, he sent the ball over the boundary ropes and also collected a couple of fours with Banton also helping himself to a boundary.
The 50 partnership took just 18 balls in 10 minutes but then Cook intervened, playing a key role as three wickets fell in four legitimate deliveries.
Little Chef had Hildreth caught at mid-wicket for 49, ending an innings that spanned 18 balls. After bowling a wide with his next ball, Cook then and had Banton caught in the deep for 18.
And two deliveries later, Roelof van der Merwe was bowled by Jamie Porter without score.
The Eagles attack kept a rein on matters, at the halfway stage of the innings, Somerset were 94 for 4. Essex Eagles skipper Harmer had Tom Abell stumped for 4 leaving the hosts looking for an influential contribution in order to set a challenging total.
Ed Byrom and Lewis Gregory added 25 in 4 overs but they were parted on 104 when Cook collected his third wicket courtesy of a catch by debutant Neesham.
Gregory and Ben Green carried the score to 137 but halfway through the 17th over, Plom gained his first wicket of the match by having Somerset skipper, Lewis Gregory caught by Harmer at extra cover.
It was not until the penultimate over that Somerset increased the tempo as Green, who finished unbeaten on 43, and Marchant de Lange each struck a maximum in an over from Neesham that yielded 21 runs.
Plom was to add another wicket to the book when trapping de Lange in front of his stumps to finish with figures of 2 for 51 whilst Porter returned 1 for 19 and Harmer 1 for 23.
The Eagles now meet Hampshire in the Vitality Blast at The Cloudfm County Ground on Friday.