Ed Barnard is celebrating his first win as Worcestershire Rapids Vitality Blast captain after a dramatic three run success over Somerset at Taunton this evening.
Ben Cox fully justified his promotion to number four in the order as he hit an unbeaten 56 off just 34 balls as the Rapids totalled 168-4 after opting to bat.
The Somerset reply was on the back foot from the very first delivery when Charlie Morris dismissed Babar Azam.
After a disciplined Rapids bowling performance, Pat Brown (3-39) held his nerve when delivering the final over as the home side closed on 165-8.
Cox’s knock brought back memories of his last Blast half century in the semi-final win over Lancashire in 2018 when the Rapids went onto win the trophy after another crucial contribution by the keeper-batsman in the final.
His innings followed on from a rapid start by Hamish Rutherford and a solid contribution by Jake Libby as the Rapids posted a challenging score.
The Rapids wore ‘Thank You NHS’ stickers on their helmets in salute to the sterling efforts of National Health Service workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The stickers, which have been produced by helmet company Masuri on behalf of the PCA, will be displayed during the remainder of both the Vitality Blast and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy competitions.
The Rapids made two changes from the side in action against Gloucestershire at Bristol a week ago with Daryl Mitchell and Charlie Morris replacing Jack Haynes and Dillon Pennington respectively.
Riki Wessels (1) was bowled in the first over from spinner Max Waller but Libby and Rutherford were quickly into their stride.
Libby rocked back to cut his first delivery from Waller for four and cracked Jamie Overton over mid- wicket to the ropes.
Rutherford drilled a delivery from Ollie Sale backward of square for six and produced the same result when he helped a widish ball from Lewis Gregory around the corner over long leg.
The 50 partnership came up in 31 balls and the Rapids reached 55-1 in the initial six over powerplay.
Rutherford raced to 46 from 29 balls with four sixes and two fours before he skied a caught and bowled to Gregory after adding 80 in nine overs with Libby.
New batsman Cox swung Tom Lammonby behind square for six to bring up the Rapids hundred in 12.4 overs.
Libby made 48 off 46 balls with five fours before he pulled Gregory straight to Tom Abell at 111-3 in the 15th over.
Cox showed his improvisation skills when scooping Lammonby over the keeper’s head for four.
When Somerset batted, Morris instantly struck a big blow when Pakistan white ball captain Azam was trapped lbw for a first ball duck.
It became 7-2 when Somerset debutant Will Smeed only succeeded in hoisting an Adam Finch delivery straight up into the air and Cox completed the catch.
Tom Abell on seven survived a legside chance off Brown in his first over but the England T20I international broke through in his next over when Steve Davies (12) moved across his stumps and was leg before.
Somerset reached 43-3 in their six over powerplay before Daryl Mitchell and Brett D’Oliveira immediately came into the attack to take the pace off the ball.
Mitchell accounted for Gregory (24) who was bowled after attempting a big hit and then Eddie Byrom (6) tried to reverse sweep Barnard and D’Oliveira took a fine low catch at what became backward square leg.
Another excellent spell from Mitchell produced figures of 4-0-28-1 before Barnard picked up a second scalp as Lammonby went for a reverse sweep and was caught at what became short fine leg.
Abell reached his half century off 34 balls but after making 60 Brown brought about his downfall in the 18th over with Mitchell showing a safe pair of hands at backward point.
Twelve runs were needed off the final over from Brown and, not for the first time in such circumstances, he handled the pressure superbly after Overton hit the second ball for six.
Brown followed up with a dot ball and conceding only a single before he had van der Merwe caught behind off the penultimate ball. The task of hitting a boundary off the final ball proved too great for Sale.