Overseas stars steer Somerset past Essex in Vitality Blast

Marchant de Lange of Somerset celebrates with team mates after taking a wicket

Marchant de Lange of Somerset celebrates with team mates after taking a wicket - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Overseas signings Marchant de Lange and Rilee Rossouw played key roles as Somerset continued an impressive start to their Vitality Blast campaign with a thumping six-wicket win over Essex Eagles at Taunton.

In a match reduced to 18 overs per side by rain, paceman De Lange, confined to the second XI for the LV= Insurance County Championship season to date, included a double-wicket maiden in taking four for nine from three overs as Essex posted 139 for nine after losing the toss.

Josh Davey finished with three for 31, with only Matt Critchley, with 60 off 38 balls, and Michael Pepper, whose 37 featured seven fours, offering much resistance for the visitors.

In reply, Somerset breezed to a revised target of 144 with 3.2 overs to spare, Rossouw blitzing 67 off 29 balls, with sixes, well supported by 20-year-old Will Smeed, who smashed 58 from 30 deliveries, including five sixes.

It meant a second win from two group matches for last season's runners-up, who look set for another successful T20 season.

Having won their opener at Kent, Essex got off to a slow start after Somerset skipper Tom Abell elected to field, losing openers Will Buttleman and Adam Rossington to Davey and Tom Lammonby respectively, off the first 14 balls.

But Critchley and Pepper got the innings on track, taking the score to 50 for two by the end of the six-over power play, Critchley striking three boundaries in the fourth over, sent down by Davey.

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Pepper reverse swept left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe for three fours in the seventh over, as well as driving him through cover for a fourth boundary.

Critchley hit Lewis Gregory for six over point as the pair took the total to 83 by the end of the ninth over before De Lange took a decisive hand.

Having conceded five from his first over, the strapping South African seamer had Pepper caught at mid on, having faced 24 balls, and Paul Walter taken at fine leg for a duck in a 10th over that saw the Eagles fail to add to their score.

The spin duo of Van der Merwe and Lewis Goldsworthy then bowled five overs in tandem for only 34 runs, Goldsworthy picking up the wicket of Tom Westley, as Somerset turned the screw.

Critchley had reached a 32-ball fifty when rain interrupted play at the end of the 15th over, with Essex 117 for five.

By the time the players returned to the field at 5.50pm, the match had been reduced to 18 overs. Their final three saw the Eagles lose two wickets to Davey and two to De Lange, including Critchley, who had struck six fours and two sixes.

Smeed ensured Somerset made a rapid start to their reply, lofting two sixes in the third over, bowled by Dan Sams, before Ben Allison had Tom Banton caught at deep mid-wicket for two.

The powerful Smeed collected his third and fourth maximums by smashing Sam Cook for six, four and six at the end of the fifth over, and by the end of the power play Somerset had raced to 69 for one, Rossouw joining the party with a six over mid wicket off Simon Harmer.

The South African left-hander built on his match-winning Somerset debut innings against Kent last Wednesday, hoisting left-arm spinner Aron Nijjar for three sixes in the ninth over, which saw Smeed reach a 25-ball half-century.

Rossouw cleared the ropes twice more off Critchley, while Smeed also treated the crowd to another six in the same over. Both fell late on, along with Abell, but by then the outcome had long been settled.

Somerset head to Hampshire on Monday, while Essex entertain the Hawks the following evening in Chelmsford.