T20: Banton's maiden ton puts Somerset in hunt
PUBLISHED: 09:06 11 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:06 11 August 2019
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Tom Banton scored a scintillating maiden Vitality T20 Blast hundred to propel Somerset to a comfortable 55-run victory over Kent and into quarter-final contention in the ultra-competitive South Group.
Banton's memorable exhibition of clean-hitting illuminated a packed Cooper Associates Ground, with the 20-year-old opener scoring exactly 100 from 52 balls with9nine fours and four sixes as Somerset posted an imposing 206-8 in 20 overs after winning the toss.
Required to score at 10.85 an over, no Kent batsman managed to raise 50 as the visitors subsided to 151 all out in 18.4 overs, their reply undone by Craig Overton's incisive return of 3-32.
Somerset lost Pakistani batsman Babar Azam and veteran campaigner James Hildreth early on, but there was simply no stopping Banton, who went to his fourth 50 of the campaign from 27 balls.
He was afforded a life on 57 when Adam Milne, stationed at mid-wicket, fumbled a catch, much to the chagrin of South African paceman Hardus Viljoen.
Banton made good his escape, smiting Nabi over long-on for six to register his best-ever T20 score, eclipsing the 71 he made against Surrey at the same venue eight days earlier.
and he found a willing ally in Tom Abell, who hit the ground running and matched his young partner blow-for-blow in a whirlwind partnership of 102 in 8.5 overs for the third wicket.
Banton required a further 24 balls to go from 50 to three figures, realising his maiden T20 hundred in the grand manner when hoisting Daniel Bell-Drummond over square leg for his fourth maximum.
The applause of an appreciative audience still ringing in his ears, Banton was out next ball, undone by Bell-Drummond, who then pinned Eddie Byrom lbw later in the same over.
When Tom Lammonby was comprehensively bowled by Milne for two in the 18th over, Somerset were 179-5 and in danger of squandering a position of strength.
It was left to Abell to pick up the cudgels, with Somerset's captain surpassing his previous highest score of 57 before driving Viljoen high to Zak Crawley at mid-off for 63. His high-octane innings spanned 33 balls and was adorned with six fours and two sixes.
Overton and Tim Groenewald came and went quickly thereafter, but not before Somerset had exceeded 200 for a third match in succession.
Crawley afforded Kent's reply early impetus, striking 35 from 24 balls in an opening stand of 50 in 5.2 overs with Bell-Drummond before driving Jerome Taylor to cover.
Somerset left-arm seamer Tom Lammonby struck a crucial blow, inducing danger-man Heino Kuhn to hit straight to long-off for 20 with the score on 89 in the 11th over.
Overton then took centre stage, claiming three wickets in five balls in accounting for Bell-Drummond, Sam Billings and Nabi and reducing the visitors to 102-5 in the 13th over.
Alex Blake and Viljoen succumbed to Max Waller's leg breaks, while Lammonby effected two run outs to send back Ollie Robinson and Fred Klaassen as the Spitfires folded.
Milne then fell to Taylor in the 19th over, signalling the end of the road for second-in-the-table Kent, who now lead Somerset by just two points.
Abell said: "That's our first win in 12 games against Kent and it tastes pretty sweet. Tom Banton is a real talent and everywhere you look on social media, it's going crazy for him. He's been incredibly consistent at the top of the order and his innings simply took the game away from Kent.
"It was a very special knock and it was a pleasure being at the other end watching him go about his work. My job was to play second fiddle and support him. When Tom was dropped in the fifties, it was a big moment in the game. When you get one guy scoring a hundred and another 50, then it's hard for the opposition.
"We knew this would be a big week for us, playing three games against three good sides. To get three wins is brilliant and puts us in with a chance of making the knockout stages."
Turning point: How Kent's Adam Milne must have regretted putting down Tom Banton at mid-wicket when he had scored 57. Somerset's opener punished the lapse by adding a further 43 runs.
Shot of the day: No respector of reputations, Somerset captain Tom Abell stepped down the pitch and despatched South African paceman Hardus Viljoen for an imposing straight six high into the Somerset Pavilion Stand.
Unsung hero: Overshadowed by his younger partner, Somerset skipper Tom Abell nevertheless played a key supporting role, his half century affording the innings impressive momentum.
Up next: No quarter will be given when Somerset host neighbours and arch rivals Gloucestershire in the West derby encounter beneath the Cooper Associates Ground floodlights on Friday, August 16. The winners will be well-placed to achieve a top-four finish.