Cricket: Somerset sense return to golden years

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Kent 264-5 Somerset 266-4 Somerset win by six wickets

JUST AS they did in the 1983 final of this competition, Somerset got the better of Kent in yesterday's quarter-final, thanks this time to an impressively assured run chase which ended in a rout.

Led by their Tasmanian captain Jamie Cox, the West Countrymen, starved of success since those heady days of Botham and Richards, barely permitted a depleted Kent side a glimpse of victory in front of a delighted full house.

Kent, who had overcome the combined might of Cheshire and the Netherlands to reach the last eight, were given first use of a flat Taunton track on a perfect summer's day.

The visitors' captain, Matthew Fleming, and their leading bowler Dean Headley had pulled out at the last moment owing to stomach and rib ailments respectively, and with a new opening partnership of House and Key they were evidently looking for a secure start.

Will House, however, could not provide it. After getting off the mark with a five, courtesy of four overthrows, the former Cambridge University man had two failed attempts to run himself out before succumbing to a clever slower ball from fellow former Light Blue Steffan Jones.

A third Cambridge graduate, Ed Smith, fell quickly to Andy Caddick, but Key and Andrew Symonds then put their heads down and had added 83 when Symonds departed in the first over of Caddick's second spell. The England seamer, once again, was several classes apart from his fellow Somerset bowlers.

Key's watchful vigil then ended in Michael Burns' first over, comprehensively yorked, and at 145 for 4 with 15 overs remaining Kent looked stranded. Fortunately for them Matthew Walker had one of his better days and in tandem with stand-in captain Mark Ealham 98 runs were plundered from the final 10 overs to give the Kent bowlers something to defend.

The suspicion though was that, with two important bowlers missing, it would not be enough and so it proved. Somerset were given a flying start by Cox and his predecessor as captain Peter Bowler, and when the latter chased a wide one from Ealham in the 13th over and was caught behind, Piran Holloway came in and upped the tempo still further.

His straight six off Ealham brought up the 100 in the 22nd over before Cox was undone by a beauty from Symonds having struck 73 from 85 balls. But it proved a futile gesture on Kent's part as first Burns and then Rob Turner helped Holloway rush Somerset to victory with nearly four overs to spare.

For Kent, it was a first defeat in 11 matches but hardly the one they would have chosen, while Somerset and their supporters will already be looking forward to another home tie in the semi-finals against Surrey in just over a fortnight's time. Victory in that would bring a long-awaited return to Lord's at the end of next month.