TAUNTON (Somerset won toss): Somerset (131, 0pt) lost to Warwickshire (132, 2pts) by five wickets
Some teenagers would have been daunted. Facing an awesome batting line-up on a ground that has become notorious as a bowler’s graveyard, many 19-year-olds would have wilted.
Not Chris Woakes. He took four for 21 on Saturday to take the man of the match award and help his side to their first Twenty20 Cup win of the season. They are the second-best figures for a Warwickshire seamer in this competition and the sixth-best figures by any Bears bowler.
Warwickshire have beaten Somerset in all nine Twenty20 Cup matches they have contested and, with all their home games to come, are poised to progress.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect about Woakes is that he makes it look so simple. It’s the hallmark of many good players. He frustrated batsmen as talented as Justin Langer and Marcus Trescothick by bowling a very full length and allowing them no width. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Add a little swing, a little pace and the excellent way he uses the crease and you have an impressive bowler. And he’ll only improve as he broadens and adds pace.
Don’t underestimate his batting, either. Some believe he may become a better batsman than bowler and it could just be that he feels the void left by the absence of Dougie Brown. Expectations clearly need to be tempered but Woakes is clearly the best thing to emerge from Warwickshire’s youth set-up for a few years. Some credit is surely due to Mark Greatbatch, the former coach, for spotting the potential and arranging an early promotion.
Chris Martin also enjoyed a good game at Taunton. The New Zealand fast bowler removed two of the most dangerous opponents in a single over while conceding only one run. Trescothick fell to a perfect yorker before Ian Blackwell, apparently content to be a decent county pro when he could have been so much more, was bowled as he pushed, leaden-footed, as one angled in to him.
But if Warwickshire impressed with the ball, the batting still appears fragile and nervous. They have yet to pass 160 in this Twenty20 campaign.
While Woakes belied his lack of experience with a mature display, Jim Troughton and Michael Powell (who replaced Navdeep Poonia) did the opposite. Both squandered their wickets through schoolboy errors; Troughton (31 balls, four fours) attempting a shot that would have been considered risky if 15 an over were required (rather than under six), while Powell ran himself out in attempting to regain his ground after attempting an impossible single. Earlier, Jonathan Trott, promoted to open the innings after a poor start to the tournament, skied a leading edge and Tony Frost missed his slog-sweep after he was deceived by a well-disguised slower ball.
At least Westwood (29 balls, two fours and a six) kept his head. Captaincy appears to have been the making of him and here he produced another calm display with the bat and an intelligent performance as leader. It’s premature to think of him replacing Darren Maddy but Ashley Giles’ decision to make him vice-captain at the start of the season - surprising as it was - has been utterly vindicated. It was fitting that he scored the winning run on Saturday after securing the tie on Friday.
Ant Botha is also enjoying an impressive start to the Twenty20 campaign. Apart from being the best fieldsman in the side he’s provided excellent control with the ball and some clean hitting down the order. Indeed, his performance on Saturday was almost as important as Woakes’. Firstly he removed Langer (missing an awful reverse sweep) and James Hildreth (courtesy of a remarkably sharp caught and bowled catch). When seven were required off the final over, it was Botha’s brave clip to the boundary over mid-wicket off the splendid Blackwell that effectively settled matters.
Warwickshire’s fielding was also pleasing on Saturday. Fleet-footed running, accurate throwing and sound ground-fielding limited Somerset to a total perhaps 35 short of par on a surprisingly truculent Taunton pitch.
The only major exception was the normally reliable Neil Carter dropping a straightforward chance at mid-on offered by Trescothick (41 balls, four fours, two sixes) when the batsman had scored only 13. Woakes was the unfortunate bowler and, to rub salt into the wound, the next ball was flicked for six.
It looked as if it could be a costly miss. Langer (30 balls, five fours and a six) thrashed Tim Groenewald for 14 in three balls at one stage and, at the halfwaypoint, Somerset seemed poised on 77 without loss. The final 9.5 overs yielded only 54 runs, however, as Somerset lost all ten wickets.
If it was Botha and Martin who precipitated the decline, Woakes produced the fatal blows. He claimed three wickets in an over as his tight line and length forced Somerset into taking risks. Perhaps his first wicket was somewhat fortunate. Peter Trego, eyes lighting up at a rare loose ball, thrashed a full toss to Trott on the mid-wicket boundary before Craig Kieswetter lofted to long-off and, next delivery, Wes Durston was bowled by one that nipped back. Ben Phillips departed in Woakes’ next over, missing an attempted sweep.
Meanwhile, tickets remain available for the one-day international between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday. Telephone 0870 062 1902 or visit www.edgbaston.com for details.