LIAM Dawson’s unbeaten 47 guided Hampshire to an improbable first  T20 win at Taunton - with just three balls to spare.

Hampshire had lost their eight previous T20 matches at Taunton and Somerset, who lost the toss, looked favourites for most of the evening after Babar Azam marked his home debut with an extraordinary innings of 95 from 61 balls (nine fours three sixes).

A packed crowd of around 7,400 saw Hampshire struggle to 96 for four after 14 overs of the first T20 game under the Taunton floodlights.

But a late onslaught from Dawson and James Fuller, who hit three sixes in scoring 28 off 12 balls, took Hampshire to the brink of an amazing success that was clinched by a Lewis McManus maximum against West Indies' Jerome Taylor.



After three overs of their innings, the hosts had scored just ten for the loss of Tom Banton, caught at mid-off trying loft Chris Wood back over his head.

The power-play ended with the Somerset on only 30 for one. Gradually, Azam began to keep pace with partner Peter Trego, but the halfway point of the innings was reached with the hosts becalmed on 65 for one.

That became 72 for two when Trego’s middle stump was knocked back by Wood in the 11th over with his score on 35. Hampshire still had the scoring rate under control when Azam reached a scratchy half-century from 40 balls.

But if Somerset fans were disappointed in the new overseas recruit at that point, they were soon to see why Azam is regarded among the best young batsmen in the world.

The 15th over saw him launch Chris Morris for two big sixes, while James Hildreth also struck a maximum as the over cost 22.

Hildreth reverse swept a six off Dawson in contributing a typically breezy 28 before being yorked by Morris, who bowled the 18th over for just four runs.

Azam then produced an extraordinary back-foot shot to hit Abbott for six over wide long-off. Now he was in full flow and helped Somerset add 24 from the last two overs before leaving the arena to a standing ovation.

Hampshire were well in the game, but lost three wickets in the power-play, two of them to Jerome Taylor. The West Indian seamer had Rilee Rossoux caught by the diving Max Waller at mid-off and Sam Northeast taken at short mid-wicket in bowling his first two overs for seven runs.

The key wicket of James Vince was sandwiched in between, caught at short cover for only a single off Craig Overton. At 42 for three after seven overs the required run-rate had risen to more than ten.

Donald hit a six and 6 fours before being caught at mid-off from the final ball of the 13th over, sent down by Lewis Gregory. Morris hit Overton for two sixes in the 15th over, but Somerset looked sure to win until Taylor conceded 24 off the 17th over, Fuller smashing 3 sixes.

Suddenly Hampshire looked favourites as Dawson lofted the previously economical Roelof van der Merwe over deep square for six to leave 18 needed from two overs.

Fuller was caught behind for 28 off the first ball of the 19th, bowled by Gregory, but Taylor had only eight runs to play with when sending down the last.

Three balls later, McManus secured an unlikely win.

Hampshire all-rounder Dawson said: "We have been involved in three close games now and it's great to have got over the line in this one. It will do our dressing room a power of good.

"We lost early wickets again, but if you are going to do that anywhere this is the place because with the short boundaries at Taunton you are never out of the game. There is always a chance to catch up.

"Fortunately, Chris Morris, James Fuller and Lewis McManus came in and hit sixes, which made my job a lot easier. It was a great win for us."

Somerset head coach Jason Kerr: "It was not a case of things going wrong. That's T20 cricket. One over and one batsman can take games away from you.

"We know what James Fuller is capable of and he struck the ball brilliantly. It was a really good wicket and we can't be 30 for one at the end of the power-play.

"I am not going to stand here and criticise individual mistakes from players who have been brilliant for us this season. There were more positives to come out of the game than negatives for me."

THE TURNING POINT: James Fuller is no stranger to big-hitting and his three sixes off Jerome Taylor in the 17th over gave Hampshire a first glimmer of hope having been largely outplayed to that point.

SHOT OF THE MATCH: When Kyle Abbott dropped slightly short in the 19th over, Azam went onto the back foot and played through the line, sending the ball soaring over long-off for six.

UNSUNG HERO: Aneurin Donald – When three wickets went down in Hampshire’s power-play the opener had to rein himself back, but his 48 proved invaluable in setting up the late swing in fortunes.

WHAT’S NEXT: Somerset have home advantage again on Sunday when Sussex provide the opposition for a 2.30pm start. Hampshire have no game until next Thursday night when they take on Essex at Chelmsford.

Somerset innings

T Banton † c Vince b Abbott 1
Babar Azam not out 95 
PD Trego b Wood 35
JC Hildreth b Morris 28
L Gregory (c) not out 10
Extras 3 (nb 2, w 1)
TOTAL 172/3 (20 overs)
Did not bat: TB Abell, TA Lammonby, RE van der Merwe, C Overton, JE Taylor, MTC Waller
Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Tom Banton, 1.2 ov), 2-72 (Peter Trego, 10.4 ov), 3-144 (James Hildreth, 17.2 ov).
BOWLING: CP Wood 4-0-22-1, KJ Abbott 4-0-42-1, CH Morris 4-0-34-1, LA Dawson 3-0-31-0, MS Crane 3-0-18-0, JK Fuller 2-0-25-0.

Hampshire innings (target: 173 runs from 20 overs)
AHT Donald c Lammonby b Gregory 48
RR Rossouw c Waller b Taylor 6
JM Vince (c) c Gregory b Overton 1
SA Northeast c Hildreth b Taylor 10
LA Dawson not out 47
CH Morris b Overton 15
JK Fuller c †Banton b Gregory 28
LD McManus † not out 15
Extras 4 (b 1, nb 2, w 1)
TOTAL 174/6 (19.3 overs)
Did not bat: CP Wood, KJ Abbott, MS Crane
Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Rilee Rossouw, 1.4 ov), 2-9 (James Vince, 2.1 ov), 3-32 (Sam Northeast, 5.2 ov), 4-88 (Aneurin Donald, 12.6 ov), 5-111 (Chris Morris, 14.5 ov), 6-155 (James Fuller, 18.1 ov).
BOWLING: MTC Waller 3-0-28-0, JE Taylor 3.3-0-40-2, C Overton 4-0-39-2, L Gregory 4-0-31-2, RE van der Merwe 4-0-28-0, TA Lammonby 1-0-7-0.