Somerset’s cricketers have finally ended their long wait for cup final glory, thrashing Hampshire at Lord’s to lift the first domestic trophy of the year and set up what could turn into a memorable season.
Led by stand-out performances from their youngest players – some of whom were still schoolboys last time the Cidermen tasted cup success – the perennial runners-up made a six-wicket victory look simple.
Twenty-year-old opener Tom Banton relished the big occasion with a sparkling yet mature 69, after disciplined bowling had restricted Hampshire to 244.
The arrival of The Hundred means this was probably the last domestic final at Lord’s for some time. It won’t go down as a classic, but it will live long in the memory of the West Country faithful, who drank the bars dry and sang their hearts out to the end.
Somerset lost the toss on a sunny morning and got off to a cracking start with the ball, Craig Overton and Josh Davey extracting bounce and movement from a slow, green wicket.
The breakthrough came when Aneurin Donald drove to cover in the fourth over. James Hildreth then spilled a chance at slip – but made amends the very next ball, holding on to give Davey his second scalp.
Plymouth-born Lewis Gregory, enjoying a brilliant season with bat and ball, bowled Joe Weatherley to leave Hampshire wobbling at 50 for 3.
Riley Rossouw and Sam Northeast attempted to rebuild before Jamie Overton, back from a loan spell at Northamptonshire and perhaps with a point to prove, forced Rossouw to drag on to his stumps and then got Gareth Berg top-edging a hook to deep square leg.
Tom Abell, who was a seven-year-old fan watching from the stands the last time Somerset lifted a trophy here, won the battle of the captains as Northeast missed an ugly mow across the line.
Abell leaped in the air when he rattled the stumps a second time, nipping one off the seam to bowl Kyle Abbott.
Some late hitting from James Fuller and Mason Crane boosted Hampshire’s total, but at the halfway stage the West Country contingent fancied their chances.
Banton and Azhar Ali flew out of the blocks after the break, flicking West Indian paceman Fidel Edwards for a string of leg-side boundaries.
The pitch flattened out in the sun and the runs kept coming. Many players have made their name in Lord’s finals – Ian Bell was the same age when he hit a match-winning score back in 2002 – and on this evidence Banton has a bright future ahead.
He was eventually caught behind for 69, followed by his opening partner for 45, as Edwards found his range and cranked up the pace.
But the damage had been done, and it was left to 34-year-old Hildreth – quoted in the matchday programme as saying he will never give up hope of an England cap – to finish things off with a composed half-century.
High up in the stands at the nursery end, the cider continued to flow.