Saturday, 5 April 2008

2008 Season Preview: Somerset

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!

2008 prospects:

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.

Batting:

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.

Bowling:

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.

Probable side:

Trescothick
Edwards (Suppiah/Durston for limited overs)
Langer (c)
Hildreth
Blackwell
Kieswetter (wk)
Trego
Thomas/Phillips (Banks/Munday when it’s turning)
Banks/Munday (Banks will likely feature heavily in limited overs matches)
Caddick
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.

Key Man:

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.

Rising Star:

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.

6 comments:

Tim said...

Top piece - I am particularly intrigued to see how Munday does after his 8/55 in the last game last season. I generally don't mind kolpaks too much, but I will be angry if Banks is played ahead of him!

Chrispy said...

I hope that Banks is restricted more to limited overs cricket, with supporting appearances in the championship, but you never can tell. Munday certainly has some promise and could prove a trump card at Taunton, the sort that turns them into title challengers if all goes well.

The Atheist said...

There is no question.

They will win.

Butters said...

Good review, that.

A few points I have:
* The pitch calmed down a lot after the very warm & dry April we had last year.
* Alfonso Thomas has not featured at all pre-season (and may not even be coming), so it'll either be Ben Phillips, who's had a good start so far, or Steffan who will most likely start alongside Caddy & Charl. Mark Turner & Andy Sutton have also put some good performances in, so, with Pete Trego also a shoe-in after last season, it looks like Somerset have a pretty strong pace attack lined up
* In limited overs, it's more likely to be Caddy rested than Charl in order to save his body! Although this may well be rotated.
* Matt Wood hardly featured at all last season, so he won't really be missed in limited overs. It is he shame we let him go but I can see that he needs first team cricket, which he just wasn't getting with Trescothick, Edwards, Langer & Hildreth at the top of the order.
* Somerset's keepers this year are Kieswetter and Carl Gazzard - Spurway was released at the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

very good review. i think that john francis might be knocking on the door if people under achieve. I think we've got a good chance if the seamers perform.

Chrispy said...

Thanks for that butters. I wrongly thought that Gazzard had been released. That quite surprises me actually that Spurway was let go. On the brief glimpses I had of him (and they were brief) he appeared a decent prospect. Although he would have faced a hell of a challenge to get past Kieswetter, whilst Gazzard is a slightly more experienced back up. Do you know where he has gone? A few sides could do worse than snap him up, especially with a few ageing kolpak wk's floating around, ie: Pothas, Brophy...

I thought Matt Wood was one of the better players when he opened furing the Twenty20 with Graeme Smith the year Somerset triumphed. He seemed to kick on that season. But he had a slow start last year and Edwards really impressed in four day cricket. I still thought that Wood might have strengthened the limited overs side as Edwards obviously doesn't get the opps in list A cricket that he does in four day cricket. I'll be fascinated to see how he fairs at Notts in place of Jason Gallian. If he gets back to where he was then I think Somerset will regret losing him over the likes of Francis, Suppiah (who seems to excel at losing games whenever I watch him) and Durston. Francis is an experienced campaigner though who can fill the void in the event of injury/loss of form and there is so much quality batting in the Somerset side that like I said, Wood's loss will only be felt slightly in limited overs cricket.

Meanwhile Turner looks the most likely to displace one of the old guard, but I don't think sides will fear going to Taunton too much with it's reputation and that seam attack.