Plenty of stars warmed up crowds in Cardiff, Hove and Durham on a cold night of Natwest Blast action on Wednesday night.
Chris Gayle and Mahela Jayawardene made their first starts for Somerset this season but their presence could do little to stop a rampant Sussex side winning in comprehensive fashion. After being invited to bat first by Somerset skipper Jim Allenby, Chris Nash and the returning Luke Wright soon started to entertain a sizable crowd on the South Coast. The duo shared a quite brilliant opening stand of 156 in 12 overs as they led the Sussex charge. Both used a mixture of brute force and clever flicks to leave Gayle and co in awe. Nash was the first to pass fifty reaching his half-century with a typically lusty blow over cow corner off his 32nd ball of the match. Wright reached his landmark four balls quicker than his partner as he smashed the Somerset attack all around the park including a huge straight six that comfortably cleared the arena. He did eventually fall for a brilliant 83 proving that he has still got all the shots and bravado he once showed the England faithful so often. In all, he struck eight fours and five sixes during his destructive 39-ball stay. After his dismissal it turned into the Nash show as he dominated the strike, showing a mixture of canny stroke play, finding the gaps when required to steal the strike and sheer power to continue the boundary flow. Indeed, he reached a deserved maiden t20 ton off just 59-balls to lead his side past the 200 mark to take the game away from the visitors. He finished on 112 as some more big blows guided the hosts to a mammoth 222/3 from their 20 overs. In reply, Somerset were never in the game losing wickets early and regularly to a Sussex attack full of class. Jim Allenby was the first to go to just the second ball of the innings as Ajmal Shahzad arrowed a perfect inswinger into middle-stump. But it was the big one of Chris Gayle that brought the biggest cheer of the night. The big West Indian received and ferocious in-swinger dart from left-armer Tymal Mills, Gayle, in true Gayle style attempted to thwack the 93mph ball out of the stands only to see his leg-stump rocked back. The canny bowling of David Wiese, making his Sussex debut bamboozled the Somerset middle-order as the South African capped a fine debut with figures of 4-38. He removed the dangerous Peter Trego and James Hildreth before grabbing two late wickets as the West Countrymen’s tail-enders attempted to be heroes at the end only to gift catches in the deep. Jayawardene showed the Somerset faithful want he will bring to the party during his stay at the crease as he briefly offered some small hope. He struck four 4’s and three sixes in his half-century, but when he went caught on the boundary off Shahzad so did the game. Roelof van der Merwe offered some late entertainment for the crowd hitting a half-century but Sussex ran out comfortable and deserved winners when the South African was out-foxed by Mills in the last over to give the Sharks a 48-run win.
Meanwhile, in Cardiff, Essex were comprehensive winners to continue their fine record in Wales. The Eagles asked their hosts to bat first on a cold Cardiff night and the visitors were immediately rewarded when New Zealander Matt Quinn removed Glamorgan skipper Jacques Rudolph for one caught by Dan Lawrence. David Masters soon had the Welshmen two down as he induced an edge from David Lloyd to have the opener returning to the hutch for just seven. That left Colin Ingram and Aneurin Donald with work to do and the pair combined well to share 56 for the third wicket. Donald, in particular, looked in good touch hitting the rope on a regular basis as he top-scored for the hosts. Ravi Bopara broke the resistance though having the South African Ingram well caught by Lawrence for 26. The former England all-rounder looked mightily impressive with the ball as he continued to take pace of the ball, and it was indeed a slow ball that did for Ingram. Another decent looking partnership ensued between Donald and Chris Cooke as the pair took the total past the hundred mark. Donald reached his half-century in the process hitting five fours and two sixes during his innings of 51. Shortly after reaching his landmark though he gave Ashar Zaidi his first T20 Blast scalp for his new county. The Pakistani man hurried one through and bowled the youngster; it proved to be a crucial dismissal as it well and truly put the brakes on the Glamorgan innings. Cooke, the last recognisable Glamorgan batsman looked out of sorts struggling to find timing and boundaries as the overs ticked by. The impressive Bopara (2-18) accounted for Graham Wagg (7) as the Eagles skipper bowled the Glamorgan stalwart to leave the hosts teetering on 114/5. That soon became 120/6 when Craig Meschede was short of his ground attempting to up the scoring coming back for a second but the arm of Callum Taylor was too strong and the former Somerset man was forced to return back to the dugout with just six to his name. Dale Steyn (on debut) and Cooke attempted to up the ante and the pair shared 20 in two overs to take the hosts through to 140/6 from their 20 overs. In reality that was never going to prove enough given the powerful nature of the Essex batting attack, and so it proved as Jesse Ryder (42), Tom Westley (41), Dan Lawrence (24 not out) and Ryan ten Doeschate (30 not out) eased the visitors home with 22 balls to spare. The host’s had their chance, Ravi Bopara was dropped off the first ball of the innings, but it was to prove too costly as the Essex skipper fell an over later caught of Timm van der Gugten. Ryder though, was back to his brilliant best during his 42, slashing and timing Steyn all round the ground to silence the Glamorgan faithful, his early powerful hitting put the Eagles well on course for victory and left ten Doeschate and Lawrence with the easy task of seeing the visitors through to a comprehensive success, their first of the campaign, on this evidence though it won’t be their last.
In the North Group, Durham made it two wins in a row as they hammered Nottinghamshire by 66-runs at Chester-Le-Street. In front of large crowd, considering the cold conditions, the hosts provided a classy display to warm up the Durham faithful. Despite losing a few early wickets after being inserted the hosts soon got ticking with Michael Richardson (28) and Ryan Pringle (22) adding some vital runs in the middle order. Both though fell to the mightily impressive Samit Patel who got through his four overs for just 14-run collecting three wickets in the process. The former England man removed Graham Clarke, Richardson and Pringle as he dragged his side into contention. Paul Collingwood stole back some late momentum though striking a 22-ball 44 including three fours and a couple of sixes to guide his side up to a competitive 178/7. Durham’s young bowling attack then went to work and took wickets regularly to stunt the visitors charge. Barry McCarthy (3-27) continued to impress in this format, the Irishman removed both the Nottinghamshire openers to leave the visitors on 71/3 after 11 overs. McCarthy first removed Michael Lumb for eight having the former England man caught by Scott Borthwick, before getting the dangerous looking Riki Wessels – who looked in fine touch in the recent championship fixture for 38 also caught in the deep. Collingwood’s dibbly-dobblers accounted for Sam Wood (17) – who could only find Ryan Pringle. View From the Outfield’s future star picked up a rare wicket with a long hop that Australian Dan Christian could only smash down the throat of Richardson and suddenly the Outlaws were staring down the barrel on 75/4. That soon became 82/5 when Usman Arshad bowled in-form Brendan Taylor for just 2. And the collapsed continued, as Patel became McCarthy’s third victim caught in the deep by Richardson. Paul Coughlin (3-25) then ripped through the lower order to claim three quick wickets as the visitors fell without a trace. The all-rounder removed Greg Smith (11), Steven Mullaney (6) and Luke Fletcher (2) as Nottinghamshire lost their final four wickets for just ten runs to fall to a heavy defeat.
Reports by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
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