This year for Somerset ccc has been one of undoubted promise yet unprecedented failure. What should have been a T20 squad to challenge any side, as it included the two highest run scorers in T20 history (Gayle and Jayawardene), failed to pass the group stages showing a lack of depth across all 3 formats of the game. That said, The Royal London Cup was partially successful as we reached the semi final, yet as so often with Somerset they failed to go all the way. Whilst we may finish high-mid table in the championship, we are struggling to really control games, often needing moments of inspiration, not team performances to win. Two clear examples of this were the incredible victories over Surrey where Tim Groenewald and Jack Leach batted out a last wicket stand to win the game, or the win over Durham where Van Der Merwe and Leach somehow finished off the Durham lower order leaving us with a 39 run victory. However, this only serves to highlight the individual talent that exists rather than the cohesion as a team.
As the title suggests there is clear promise for Somerset, some of the young talent emerging is the best Somerset have shown for years. Tom Abell looks to be a fantastic batsmen, who can play in both limited overs cricket and the championship format, and he has a century in each competition so far. Furthermore, Ryan Davies has really come into his own recently with mentally strong batting displays against Lancashire and is improving all the time. Whilst we can find encouragement in the fact that this youthful talent is well complemented by the experience of some truly gifted cricketers such as Marcus Trescothick, Peter Trego and Chris Rogers. Furthermore, players such as James Hildreth who in the eyes of many should have had an England chance, are coming into their prime. The basis is there for a truly class team, especially when you add the fact that Somerset can afford/attract international players of Gayles’s stature.
However, something is going wrong and what should be a great team is failing to perform at its best. Perhaps a reason for this lack of cohesion is recent promotion of new player Jim Allenby to captain in limited overs cricket, I think that Allenby is a good addition to the squad who adds both experience and ability, as he has proven across all formats. However, I can’t help but feel that it would have been better for the squad to have a familiar face leading the team. Furthermore, Somerset seem to mirror England’s ability to have a sensational mid-order collapse, and are often dug out by the lower order, especially Groenewald, and more recently Davies. The fact that talented batsmen such as Gregory, Hildreth, Trego and Allenby do not regularly produce a score of some sort, leaves our totals entirely dependent on the opening duo or the lower order. This lack of consistency undoubtably is costing Somerset games, and is why we are struggling to compete with the top teams.
So what needs to happen? I think that we need a fast bowler who can take wickets on a more regular basis than the Overtons and Gregory. Leach has really proven himself this year as a front line spinner, yet Somerset lack a fast bowler that takes wickets consistently such as Toby Roland-Jones or Chris Rushworth for Middlesex and Durham respectively. We need to keep nurturing the young talents the we have at the moment, and start to focus on a long term batting partner for Abell as Trescothick has no more than 2/3 years left. As was mentioned, the basis is there for a winning team across all formats, and it is time that Somerset start to realize their potential.
(Getting Jos Buttler back wouldn’t be the end of the world either!)