T20: Ton-up Azam blasts Somerset to win at Hampshire
PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:00 10 August 2019
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Somerset's Babar Azam smashed his first Vitality Blast T20 century to set up a crushing 63-run Duckworth-Lewis-Stern win over Hampshire on Friday.
The Pakistan star is the leading run-scorer in this season's Blast with 425 runs, 99 more than nearest rival D'Arcy Short of Durham.
Azam recorded his highest T20 score as he made a remarkable 102 not out, which included seven fours and six maximums.
The victory puts Somerset above Hampshire into fifth place in the South Group to boost their hopes of a knockout place.
James Vince won the toss and threw the ball to Chris Wood - and the seamer grabbed a wicket in his first over for the fourth time this season when the dangerous Tom Banton was caught at mid-on for just one.
James Hildreth departed soon after when he clattered a cut to point to leave Somerset 37-2.
After two short rain delays, Azam and Tom Abell ramped up the scoring rate with a series of well-timed shots, with a smaller than usual Ageas Bowl outfield assisting them.
Their 50-run partnership came up in 34 balls, soon before Azam's square drive took him to his fourth half-century in the Blast.
Abell followed the overseas batsman to the milestone - the first time he had reach 50 in T20 cricket - with back-to-back reverse sweeps to the boundary.
But Abell, after putting on 113 with Azam, and Eddie Byrom fell in the space of two overs, which simply spurred Azam on.
Azam had gone under the radar, preferring placement and skill to power, but he turned on the heat with his second fifty coming in just 23 balls.
It was breathtaking batting, with his maximums flying over deep mid-wicket, point, an incredible strike over cover and finally, off the last ball of the innings, a sweet strike over square leg to bring up three figures for just the second time in his career.
That took Somerset to 202-4 and Hampshire's reply faltered in the second over as Tom Lammonby's direct hit ran out Rilee Rossouw.
Wickets carried on falling at regular intervals thanks mainly to some outrageous catches from Max Waller, Banton and Roelof Van Der Merwe - somehow bettering each other with each fling at the ball.
With Vince, Aneurin Donald, Liam Dawson, Chris Morris and Sam Northeast all caught, Hampshire's hopes of victory had all but died.
And rain prevented further humiliation with eight overs and a ball to spare, with the hosts 63 adrift of the DLS score.
Hampshire director of cricket Giles White said: "It was a tough night and a poor result for us. Credit to Somerset they played an excellent game.
"Azam's hundred and the way they fielded and bowled was exception. We were beaten by a better team.
"You don't get 200 here that often. It is T20 and when you lose a game you have to put it behind you and move on.
"When you are chasing 200 you have to take risks and run hard. There was the run out early on and then they took some great catches.
"We have spoken about the early wickets as a group. When you look at the batting order it is a strong line-up, so it is just about doing the job and setting up a decent score.
"We are thinking about changing the order now. We'll sit down as a management group before Tuesday."