Steve Snell, who was in the anonymity of the Minor county cricket last month, proved the unlikeliest of heroes for Somerset with a game-turning late cameo which ended Auckland's Champions League hopes after a last-ball thriller in Hyderabad. Snell, only making the trip to India because Somerset's two preferred wicketkeeper-batsmen Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler were tied up with the England Twenty20 team, concocted a 24-ball 34 that proved the difference in a low-scoring encounter.
Somerset, battling jetlag after landing in India only a day before this match, began the game well, restricting Auckland to a moderate 125. They seemed to be on course after an enterprising start to the chase, moving to 32 in four overs before the intervention of fast bowler Michael Bates started to swing the match towards Auckland. Bates, whose triple-wicket maiden set up Auckland's victory in the final of the HRV Cup, started with a momentum-stalling over in which he only allowed one run. He returned in the 10th over, a double-wicket maiden, removing the set batsman Peter Trego, and Nick Compton as Somerset slid to 54 for 4, after having been 52 for 1 in eight overs.
Spinner Ronnie Hira choked the runs and the boundaries proved elusive for Somerset - only one four in the ten overs after the Powerplay - prompting the asking-rate to climb towards double-digits. Despite Snell edging a four past the keeper in the 17th, and forming a substantial partnership with a watchful James Hildreth, Somerset seemed in trouble at 94 for 5, needing another 32 from three overs.
A flagging Somerset were then energised by Snell. A straight lofted four, a miscued swipe to midwicket and a scoop over short fine leg helped bring in 12 off the 18th over bowled by Chris Martin. Another experienced bowler, Kyle Mills, was taken for three boundaries, including two streaky ones by Snell and a more watchful James Hildreth to make a relatively straightforward five runs off the final over. Bates wasn't going to give up yet. He started with a perfect yorker, and then limited Somerset to four singles off the next four deliveries, including a run-out to set Somerset captain Alfonso Thomas the task of making a single off the final delivery. Thomas was up to the challenge, carving the ball over the infield and towards sweeper cover to confirm Auckland's exit.
With the ball Bates repeated his impressive performance against Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday, and with the bat it was Lou Vincent who again top scored on a sluggish pitch though he was starved of strike and support. Auckland's batsmen shuffled across the stumps, backed away to make room and attempted plenty of reverse-sweeps but they couldn't shake Somerset from their lines and lengths. Even Vincent couldn't connect some of his more fancy shots - in the 19th over, when he missed yet another reverse paddle, he showed his frustration by pretending to kick down the stumps three times.
Auckland were on the back foot early on as they lost several of their better-known batsman cheaply. Martin Guptill did better than the diamond duck he managed on Monday, but holed out to long-on for 9 despite being dropped on his second ball and barely surviving a run-out on the next. Their Australian import Rob Quiney also flopped, trapped lbw by Thomas for 4.
Vincent and captain Gareth Hopkins had to revive Auckland from 14 for 3, but were hemmed in by the raft of Somerset slow bowlers used, a strategy that worked well for Trinidad & Tobago earlier in the day. The extent of Auckland's struggles showed in their boundary count - in the final nine overs there was only one four and one six.