2007 in a nutshell:
It was a pretty successful year for the Sabres with a double promotion to the top tiers of both the County Championship and Pro40 League One. A more sporting wicket at Taunton was much hyped but never seemed to materialise as early doors Somerset both recorded and conceded over 800 runs in an innings!
The talk is of a title challenge and while that may be a little optimistic, the west country club can expect to retain their newly found top tier status in both formats of the game. Any success will be built around a formidable batting unit which blends youth with experience throughout. It will be fascinating to see if the Taunton wicket is the usual featherbed which all have come to expect, or if it will have a little more in it. If the latter is the case, then Somerset may have a chance to bowl out opposition sides twice and in the process push for the title. If not, then Somerset’s ageing attack may well struggle at home.
This facet is definitely the strength of the side with two former world class international openers in Marcus Trescothick and Justin Langer. Sandwiched between the two in unlimited overs cricket will be Neil Edwards, who is highly thought of at Taunton, hence the decision to allow the promising Matthew Wood to leave for division rivals Nottinghamshire. The much hyped James Hildreth will come in next and he will be looking to press his England claims further this year. Ian Blackwell missed most of last season so will be eager to get back into the fold this year. Young wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter will be looking to build on his impressive start at Somerset, whilst Peter Trego, Omari Banks and Alfonso Thomas are all capable of contributing decent runs at a fair pace. Wes Durston and Arul Suppiah may well struggle to work their way into the four day side, though at least one of them will feature in limited overs cricket, if not both, with Edwards likely to make way.
This could be the weak link, especially at Taunton. Andy Caddick enjoyed a phenomenal season last year during the twilight of his career. However, that was in Division Two, during a wet summer. He will find the challenge harder in Division One, especially after back surgery, but will undoubtedly relish the test as he enters possibly his final season. Both Charl Willoughby and Steffan Jones are experienced but not getting any younger. Ben Phillips is returning from a year out through injury so it will be interesting to see how he fares. Peter Trego will look to build on an impressive season last time out as he develops into a genuine allrounder. New signing Alfonso Thomas will meanwhile be eager to show what he is capable of. The spinning options are good with both Blackwell and Banks experienced at international level. There is also the young Michael Munday to factor into the equation as he looks to develop his improving leg spin bowling.
Edwards (Suppiah/Durston for limited overs)
Thomas/Phillips (Banks/Munday when it’s turning)
Banks/Munday (Banks will likely feature heavily in limited overs matches)
Willoughby (Suppiah/Durston for limited overs)
The side bats impressively and a long way down, on what is renowned as a fantastic home pitch. Runs will not be a problem for this side in any format and they should come at a good rate when needed, even without the cavalier Cameron White. Defending totals and bowling sides out might be a cause for concern though, especially at home, with Trego and Thomas needing to take increasing responsibility as the season wears on. Omari Banks will need to show that he is more than a bits and pieces cricketer, while the loss of Matthew Wood may be felt slightly in limited overs cricket.
There are a few to go for and they are all batsman, which tells the story of the season ahead. Marcus Trescothick has freed himself from the pressure which came with an anticipated England return. He will be able to focus purely on Somerset for the next couple of years which is fantastic news for everyone who is associated with the club. He is a fantastic player who will continue to plunder runs of the Ramprakash proportions in all formats for a good few years yet with his aggressive and domineering style of play.
Michael Munday is my pick for the rising star. He is 23 now and should be looking to play on a more regular basis after making his debut in 2005. The young leg spinner has already taken 66 first class wickets in 22 matches to date, at a good average and strike rate. Aptly for a spinner he is a keen chess player. Young wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter will also be looking to push on at a higher level.
Captain and Coach:
Justin Langer brings a lot to the party as he winds down his playing career with the Cidermen. He knows how to win the biggest of prizes and has the knowledge and the resilience to inspire his troops and claim honours for the west country club. Coach Andy Hurry meanwhile will be looking to build on last years successes and is keen to match Langer’s lofty ambitions for the club. A first County Championship win would be a fine tonic for both.