Spitfires downed at Taunton
Spitfires downed at Taunton
Tom Banton scored a superb maiden hundred as Somerset thrashed Kent by 264 runs in a one-sided Royal London Cup contest at the Cooper Associates Ground.

Making only his eighth appearance in the competition, the youngster raised a career-best 107 to help the hosts register an imposing 358-9 after being put in.

Craig Overton posted a blistering unbeaten half century and then took 5-18 as last season’s finalists were bowled out for 94 in just 27 overs.

Selected on the strength of a notable white-ball innings of 150 in a recent second XI match against a Middlesex attack that included James Harris and Toby Rowland-Jones, former England Under-19 international Banton was preferred to seasoned campaigner Steve Davis.

Promoted to open for the first time in a List-A fixture, the 20-year-old made the most of his opportunity, playing with a confidence and panache that suggested he is at last ready to realise a potential that went largely unfulfilled during teenage years spent in Warwickshire’s Academy.

Forthright from the outset, Banton produced some sumptuous drives in dominating stands of 78 and 82 with Peter Trego and James Hildreth for the second and third wickets respectively.

Eclipsing his previous best score of 40, the Buckinghamshire-born right-hander raised 50 from 44 balls before accelerating. Banton moved to his hundred via a further 37 deliveries, at which point a sun-drenched Bank Holday crowd of more than 5,000 rose to acclaim a new favourite.

Just when a really substantial score appeared to be his for the asking, the youngster suffered an unexpected lapse in composure, mis-cuing a pull shot to mid-off to reward Harry Podmore’s persistence. Adorned with 11 fours and a trio of sixes, Banton’s 81-ball innings provided Somerset with a crucial foundation.

This was built upon by Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory, who combined quick running and clever placement in a fifth wicket alliance of 73, illuminated by the latter’s free-flowing knock of 51 from 45 balls.

Although both fell to startling catches by Alex Blake at short extra cover, there was no respite for Kent as Overton picked up the cudgels in a blistering innings of 66 not out from 36 balls, his highest in List-A cricket. Opening his shoulders, he  treated Somerset fans to an almighty straight-hit six at the expense of Podmore, the ball clearing the roof of the Sir Ian Botham Stand and landing in the river Tone.

Deprived of the services of key batsmen Joe Denly, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Heino Kuhn and Sam Billings, Kent’s top-six appeared denuded of much of it’s potency. And so it proved when the ubiquitous Overton went to work, the England paceman accounting for Sean Dickson, Ollie Robinson and danger-man Matt Renshaw in a devastating burst of 3-6 in 21 balls to effectively strangle Kent’s reply in its infancy.

Josh Davey had Zak Crawley held in the slips, Tim Groenewald defused the potentially explosive Blake, accounted for Adam Rouse and then ran out Darren Stevens, while Overton returned to mop up tail-enders Milnes and Imran Quyyum.

Deployed behind the stumps, Banton added further gloss to his performance, weighing in with three catches on a day to remember for the youngster.

Somerset batsman Tom Banton said: “That was really good fun. I’ve been in good form in the second XI and really wanted to carry that into this game. I’ve not done anything different from last year, but I’m probably playing as well as I’ve ever played, if not better.

“It was difficult to begin with, because Darren Stevens caused me some problems and the ball was moving around. But it became easier with time, I played every ball on it’s merits, kept the risky shots to a minimum and grew in confidence the longer I was out there.

“It’s important to make a good start in a competition like this and it’s a really big win for the team. All of the boys played their part and Craig Overton was outstanding with bat and ball.”

Kent head coach Matt Walker said: “There are no positives when you lose a game like that. It was not good enough and was pretty disappointing in every aspect. We want to give young players an opportunity, but when it comes along, they have to take it.

“So long as they learn from their mistakes, we can excuse bad days at the office. But it was a poor performance and there is no escaping that.We have a few players missing and are down to the bare bones, but we cannot excuse performances like that. It was embarrasing and, at some stage, people have to stand up and be counted.

“When you chase a big score, the last thing you want is to lose early wickets. We were not up to scratch at all and that’s not what we want to see from a Kent team. It was a devastating defeat.”