This is the third part of a series, with a look back at a memorable game from the past against each of Essex’s 2024 home Vitality Blast opponents. This next instalment recalls a tense victory in Taunton from three years ago.
Essex (187-7) beat Somerset (185-7) by three wickets
Taunton County Ground, 9th June 2021
Scorecard: View Here
There are lots of things to love about T20 cricket, but perhaps one of the format’s best qualities is the constant momentum swings that can make a game so dramatic.
When Essex visited Somerset for their opening match of the 2021 Blast, the constant shifts in who was the favourite, especially in the latter stages, made for an extremely memorable encounter.
Playing the role of finisher, New Zealand international Jimmy Neesham hit a blazing 25-ball 53 in his first match for the Eagles to sneak out a tight win that at one point seemed improbable.
Paul Walter also contributed with 45 from 30 deliveries as Essex overhauled their target in the penultimate over.
Challenging as it was, the required runs could have been far higher, with Somerset reined in by Sam Cook’s 3/14 and combined figures of 2/42 from seven overs from Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer.
It was Cook who initially prised Essex’s first opening in the contest, ending an early onslaught from James Hildreth, who made an 18-ball 39 after Harmer had won the toss and invited the hosts to bat.
One then brought two as after Hildreth, who was chiefly responsible for a 33-run third over, had picked out Walter behind square, his fellow opener Tom Banton slapped Cook to Aron Nijjar at midwicket.
The Cook/Porter combination usually finds most of its rewards for Essex in red-ball cricket, but it was on full display here, as only two balls later, the latter rearranged Roelof van der Merwe’s furniture.
It was those three wickets that helped rein Somerset in, and the deceleration continued when Tom Abell was deceived by Harmer’s second ball to be stumped, leaving the hosts 94-4 at halfway.
Eddie Byrom started well, though his innings never really took flight before he was caught by Neesham for 28 to give Cook his third wicket, resulting in Lewis Gregory being content to milk the middle overs.
Consequently, his innings was similarly doughy, making a 25-ball 24 before falling in the 17th over, though some late Ben Green hitting ensured Somerset finished with a flourish.
The Exeter-born all-rounder contributed an unbeaten 30-ball 43, including three sixes, while boisterous South African speedster Marchant de Lange hit 18 off seven.
Ultimately, Somerset finished with a total that, considering where they had been and the small dimensions of the Taunton ground, left the match in the balance.
It remained that way through to the end of the powerplay as, despite Josh Davey claiming two wickets, Essex advanced to 51-3 after six overs with Walter and Ryan ten Doeschate looking set at the crease.
The duo milked the spin of van der Merwe and Max Waller, before both opened their shoulders somewhat to take 15 off the tenth over, bowled by Gregory.
That put the Eagles on 88-3 at halfway, requiring a difficult but hardly improbable 97 more, before a single from ten Doeschate off van der Merwe brought up his stand of 50 with Walter in 31 balls.
Although that was exactly the kind of rate the visitors needed, de Lange bustled in to deal a body blow when he squared up ten Doeschate and the ball nicked the shoulder on its way through to Banton.
Moments later, Walter became Davey’s third victim when he miscued to van der Merwe at mid-on, leaving Essex in a difficult position of 109-5 and needing another 77 from 40 balls.
The combative Neesham, however, showed his love of a challenge, and blasted six boundaries within his first eight balls to wrest back some control.
The larger-than-life de Lange then slightly lost his cool in sending down an eight-ball 16th over that went for 14, just after Waller had leaked 19 off the 15th and before van der Merwe conceded another 14.
That brutal three-over spell had swung the pendulum once more, and despite de Lange snaring both Harmer and Neesham at the end of his final over, the job was just about done.
Essex had 12 balls remaining to achieve another ten runs with three wickets in the hutch, but they needed just five of them.
Off the penultimate ball of Davey’s final over, Jack Plom heaved the Scotsman across the line for an almighty six that handed the Eagles a tense win.
Get priority access to Vitality Blast tickets
The Eagles will host seven explosive T20 encounters at The Cloud County Ground this summer, and with over 14,000 tickets already sold, there’s no time to waste to grab the best seats.
You can now secure early access to purchase your tickets ahead of general sale by subscribing to our ‘Over & Out!’ e-newsletter.
Just click below to sign up and receive your instant priority access: