T20 Blast: Azam’s amazing ton thrills as Somerset romp to victory over Hampshire Royals


Babar Azam stole the headlines with a faultless 102 not out as Somerset put Hampshire to the sword in an emphatic 63-run (D/Ls) rout.

Royals captain James Vince won the toss and opted to put Somerset into bat first. It was hardly a surprise considering the gloomy overheads and the increased chance of the Duckworth Lewis coming into play.
Heading into the match, the south coast faithful had witnessed low scores throughout the campaign with the track at the Ageas proving slow, turgid and difficult for the batsman to find their timing.
For James Vince and his men, they were without the man who was integral to their victory against Glamorgan seven days ago. Spinner Mason Crane picked up a mild-side strain in that win but is expected to be back within the next week.
After five overs and with the visitors 40-2, weather halted Babar Azam’s brutal display of power hitting. Seemingly throwing the kitchen sink at every single delivery, the Pakistani was thrilling the weather-affected Hampshire crowd.

The sunshine crept back out allowing the disruption to only be a brief one. A short 10 minute break meant no overs were lost.

The two Hampshire left-arm spinners Liam Dawson and Brad Taylor were having trouble to grip the ball following the brief downpour. Almost every delivery was met with a wiping of the ball as they repeatedly bowled too short which allowed Azam to pounce. A stark contrast to the ultimate dominance Dawson had on the slow wicket last week.

At the halfway point of the innings Somerset were 80-2 with dangerman Babar Azam set on 46 not out. Tom Abell was also playing more than a supporting act, increasing the run-rate for the visitors with an aggressive approach.  It was clear to see that the batsmen were getting good value for classic cricket shots on this wicket.

Azam reached his half-century off 32 deliveries with a sumptuous cover drive, his fastest in a Somerset shirt. However, that spelt the end of proceedings for the time being, with rain once again the nemesis. The players charged off and took shelter in the dugouts.

The rain break didn’t stop Somerset’s juggernaut-like momentum with Tom Abell hitting successive reverse sweeps for a six and four respectively. The boundary drew his half-century up off just 30 balls, his first in T20 cricket. Moments later a six down long-on from Abell (57) brought up the hundred partnership between Abell and Azam who were taking the Hampshire bowling to the cleaners.

The pace and the acceleration of Babar Azam’s 102* was the perfect template of an openers innings in T20 cricket. Displaying subtlety, brutality and everything in-between whilst contending with the regular rain intervals, Azam dramatically reached his 100 off the last ball of the innings with a huge hit leg-side. A hundred in 55 balls meant that Somerset finished on an impressive 202-4.


Photo: @hantscricket

The weather made an unwanted appearance yet again just before the Royals batsmen were set to stride to the crease but fortunately went away 10 minutes later. Hampshire had a simple equation; 203 needed off the allotted 20 overs.

An early run-out brought skipper James Vince to the crease. After a punch down the ground for four, he was then dropped twice in back to back deliveries. Two balls later, the England man then skied one in the air but the Somerset wicket-keeper lost the flight off the ball and was left scrambling around in a desperate attempt to regain sight of the white thing. Whilst still comedically looking up to the heavens in the hope of the catch, the ball was already on the ground.

With Duckworth Lewis an ever-alarming possibility, there was clear intent from the home side to get ahead of the rate. Somerset were not made to pay as Vince (10) went after smashing another one in the air.

Another wicket soon followed and this time it was Azam in the action again. Seemingly not content with a sensational batting performance, he then takes a sensational catch. Running from mid-off to long-off watching the ball come over his shoulder, Azam dived forward to snatch it. Factor in the lights and the slippery ground, the Pakistani did unbelievably well.

The 24-year-old took another one on the boundary as Hampshire fell apart at the seams. It appeared that every wicket that went down was met by an outrageous Somerset grab. With numerous contenders for ‘catch of the Blast’ the south-west side were on fire in the field.

The athleticism on show and the ruthless stranglehold of the Somerset team meant they romped away with the two points as rain brought an abrupt end to proceedings. The visiting outfit perfectly demonstrated how to perform the three facets of the game and did so with an air of poise.

Requiring 132 on Duckworth Lewis, Hampshire were nowhere near that, stuttering at 69-6.

The Royals next outing is in Gloucester on Tuesday whilst Somerset host Kent Spitfires on Saturday evening.

Team Lineups:

Hampshire Royals: Donald, Rossouw, Vince (c), Northeast, Dawson, Fuller, Morris, McManus (wk), Wood, Abbott, Taylor.

Somerset: Babar, Banton (wk), Hildreth, Abell (c), Byrom, Lammonby, van der Merwe, Overton, Groenewald, Taylor, Waller.


About Author

Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

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