Chris Gayle delivered the kind of innings Somerset had hoped for on his debut to see them to victory off the last ball over Essex in front of a packed house at Chelmsford.
However the Somerset attack bowled well, Alfonso Thomas picking up four wickets and Jim Allenby three for a miserly 10 runs to limit Essex to 176 from their 20 overs.
Afterwards Jim Allenby said:
“It was close in the end, but it was a big total and it went down to the last ball, but we only needed five off the last over- all in all a good performance.
“They got off to a proper flyer and were looking like 200 and Chelmsford’s a tough place to defend with only two fielders out. We dragged it back and I managed to get a couple taking the pace off the ball. With Max at the other end we had a good spell at that time and with the bowlers at the death it gave us a good basis for our batting. To restrict them to under 180 on that pitch was a really good effort
“It was amazing standing at the other end watching Chris Gayle batting- he didnt give me the chance to get any! Having watched him hit four huge sixes out there it was amazing watching the trajectory of the balls – like a golf ball off a driver rather than a cricket bat- he hits some ball.
“I think by the time he lost the fourth or fifth ball the umpires were carrying round a box of balls! It was amazing and a huge highlight to bat with a guy like Chris Gayle and to see him chase down that score showed his experience along with the entertainment he provided all in all it has been a pretty good day and Im just glad I was here to witness it.”
After being put into bat Essex openers Tom Westley and Jesse Ryder got their side off to a flying start with the latter in particularly aggressive mood as they saw up the 50 in the fifth over.
Max Waller came into the attack in the eighth over with the score on 79 and immediately the scoring rate started to drop.
Ryder took four off Waller’s fourth delivery to see up his 50 which came off 25 balls and included eight 4s and one 6, but when Jim Allenby was brought on at the Hayes Close End he had the New Zealander LBW with his first ball.
Next over Westley took a single off Waller to see up the 100, before Allenby struck again with the first delivery of his next over, bowling Ravi Bopara for 4, which made Essex 102 for two.
Three balls later Allenby had new batsman Kishen Velani LBW for no score which made the hosts 102 for three.
Waller then accounted for danger man Ryan ten Doeschate when he had him well caught at deep mid-wicket by Pete Trego for 14 with the total on 121.
James Foster and Westley added 36 together in 14 balls before Tanveer had the Essex keeper caught at deep mid wicket by Lewis Gregory for 16 and Essex were 157 for five after 17 overs.
New batsman Graham Napier hit his second ball from Alfonso Thomas for six but next delivery the bowler got his revenge when he had him caught by Waller at long on for eight.
In the 18th over Tanveer bowled Greg Smith for one as Essex went into the last over that was bowled by Thomas 172 for five.
Third ball of the last over Thomas had David Masters caught by James Hildreth running round from long on and with his penultimate ball be bowled Westley for 68.
The Somerset skipper wasn’t done yet and with his last delivery he had Reece Topley caught by Chris Gayle and Essex were all out for 176 in 20 overs.
Thomas ended with 4 for 37 from four, Allenby 3 for 10 off three and Tanveer 2 for 38 from four.
When Somerset replied Gayle opened with Marcus Trescothick who hit three fours off Topley in the third over before being caught by Masters off Napier for 20 with the score on 26.
Trego joined Gayle and the pair took the score onto 49 when Trego was LBW to Shaun Tait for seven.
Hildreth joined Gayle and added 43 runs for the third wicket in less than four overs when he was bowled by Napier for 18.
Allenby took a single off Bopara to see up the 100 and three balls later Gayle went to his 50 with a 6, his runs comig from 41 balls with four 4s and three 6s.
Gayle was into his stride by now and took sixes off successive balls from Napier to leave Somerset needing 20 runs to win from 18 balls by the end of te 17th over.
Allen by was caught by Smith off Tait for 19 with the score on 159 after adding 67 runs in 5 overs with Gayle.
With two overs to go 17 runs needed six wickets in hand and Gayle in full flow Somerset looked to be heading for a comfortable victory.
However when Gayle tried for another big six over the longest boundary and was caught at deep m id wicket by Bopara off Topley for 92 off 59 balls with eight 4s and six 6s to make the score 164 for five, Somerset wobbled a little.
Tom Cooper hit a six and was run out and with one over left Somerset needed five to win, but they lost Tanveer caught by Topley off Bopara’s first ball.
In the mounting tension Gregory and Waller held their nerve and remained calm before Gregory took a single off the last ball of the match to see Somerset to victory by three wickets.