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Somerset 206 for 8 (Banton 100, Abell 63) beat Kent 151 (C Overton 3-32) by 55 runs
There is no more exciting young T20 batsman in England than Tom Banton. In fact, let's not beat about the bush, there is no more exciting young batsman in the world. A maiden T20 hundred at the 13th time of asking was a momentous moment in an emerging career, assuredly the prelude to greater things.
Banton's breathtaking 100 from 52 balls, with nine fours and five sixes, even managed to end one of T20 cricket's great losing sequences along the way. Somerset had lost 11 successive T20 contests against Kent, equalled only by Zimbabwe's frequent capitulations against Pakistan, but that run was ended emphatically by 55 runs as Kent found Somerset's 206 for 8 beyond them.
Kent remain second in South Group but Somerset have entered the top four and, although both have now played one more match than their rivals, they have the quality to progress to the quarter-finals.
Somerset should enjoy Banton while they can because, in the way of county cricket, he will soon be spirited away, blooded by England in their next T20I (against New Zealand in November) if they have any sense, and pursued by T20 franchises around the globe. IPL negotiators are already studying highlight reels and after this they should request an update because the story gets better all the time.
"Everywhere you look on social media, people are going crazy about him," said Somerset's captain, Tom Abell. "He is a phenomenal talent."
Banton, a tall and audacious strokemaker awash with scoring options, has something of Kevin Pietersen about him and is arguably more rhythmical. He has also found his self-belief somewhat sooner. About this stage of his career, KP still imagined he was an offspinner.
In Somerset they joke that Banton bats faster than he talks, which is a something of a relief otherwise his front teeth would be in permanent danger of splattering into a pasty stall on Taunton High Street. He had a superb 50-over campaign and struck his previous T20-best, 71 against Surrey, only eight days ago. To keep his feet on the ground, the wise counsel of Marcus Trescothick will play a major role.
From the moment that Banton square-drove the pace of Adam Milne in the opening over, one sensed that something special might be about to unfold. Freddie Klaasen's left-arm disappeared for three boundaries in an over: a half volley along the ground, through extra cover; the length dragged back so struck on the up in the same direction; and then the reminder that nobody in England reverse-sweeps with such disdain.
There was the odd hiccup along the way. Mohammad Nabi deceived him in the flight when he had 42 from 23 balls, but he escaped with three runs over the keeper's head. On 57 from 31, he was badly dropped by Milne when he miscued to cover. The bowler? "Hardus Viljoen, I think his name is," he told Sky TV at the interval. "He bowled very well."
Somehow, amidst the mayhem, Daniel Bell-Drummond, purveyor of only 45 previous deliveries in 86 T20s, stole in with an over conceding six singles. Bell-Drummond conceded the boundary that brought up Banton's hundred but had him caught next ball at long on - his first T20 wicket.
Banton had an excellent accomplice in an innings where only one other Somerset batsman reached double figures. Tom Abell's combative 63 from 33 balls kept pace in a third-wicket stand of 102 in 54 balls. Rarely have so many deliberate shots been fashioned down past the keeper, none better than two retreats to leg against the left-arm round of Klaasen to deflect him to third man off leg stump.
Whereas Banton plays with long-limbed fluency, almost dreamlike in his ease, Abell is more pugnacious, his chest expanding more determinedly than one might deem possible from a well-spoken young man of such modest stature. Once Banton had fallen at 169 for 3 with 22 balls remaining, it was Abell who helped gather a further 39 to bat Kent out of the game.
It all ensured an unhappy return for Sam Billings, who was making his first appearance of the season after recovering from a left shoulder injury. Billings certainly tested it out in a jolting dive in the outfield which narrowly failed to end Abell's innings on 56. When Abell was caught at deep mid-off by Zak Crawley, Billings slipped and almost collided with him. He survived to fight another day and Kent will be relieved about that.
Crawley, another highly-regarded young talent (well ahead of Banton when it comes to considering future England Test batsmen) gave Kent early impetus, striking 35 from 24 balls in an opening stand of 50 in 5.2 overs with Bell-Drummond before he drove Jerome Taylor to cover.
But Craig Overton broke Kent in the 13th over with three wickets in five balls. Bell-Drummond slashed into the off side and was well caught by Eddie Byrom, Billings departed to an off-side loft and Mohammad Nabi fell for nought, flicking to Taylor at short long leg. Two run outs by Tom Lammonby rounded off a tigerish Somerset fielding display on another memorable Taunton T20 night.