Time for Maynard’s men to deliver T20 promise

Honesty doesn’t come with frills. You can wrap it in bows and shower it with sweet smelling perfume but it can still look and smell bad. And the truth is that Somerset has failed to deliver in the past two seasons of T20 cricket and have been – without shadow of a doubt – the poorest team in the southern group.

Under Matt Maynard’s tenure as Director of Cricket the cider county has finished second bottom in 2015, with only Middlesex one place below who were, ironically, due to play at Taunton in the last stage of group matches but missed the chance to crawl off the bottom due to rain. Then last season Somerset finished one place lower in bottom spot winning just three times. For Somerset supporters, who have been so often blessed to watch such marvellous one day sides, this is simply not good enough.

And all this despite being able to call on the brilliance of Chris Gayle for a few games in each campaign.

For me the side rarely, if ever, looked like it was playing to a plan. In fact maybe the inclusion of Gayle was an unnecessary distraction as the batting line-up shuffled around to accommodate the great West Indian in the games he was available, often meaning skipper Jim Allenby moving down the order. Don’t get me wrong, Gayle gave us some wonderful memories from his short time with us but I wasn’t overly disappointed when Maynard told us earlier this year that Gayle’s return was unlikely. Far better to invest money in player(s) more readily available than Gayle to bring stability.

But we move into a new campaign starting on Sunday at The Oval against old foes Surrey. Somerset can draw much positivity from their form in the 50-over tournaments in the past two seasons which saw progression to the semi-finals in 2016 and a run in 2017 that ended with an exhilarating quarter-final defeat against eventual winners Nottinghamshire. Jim Allenby led his team well and he will lead Somerset out in the 20-over format too this season.

Jim Allenby batting against Kent earlier this season

The team will be stronger thanks to new signings Steven Davies and the explosive Corey Anderson who will both add fire power to the run charge. One of the frustrating things from last year was that Craig Overton was overlooked early on with, it has to be said, less likely players taking the field. Allenby has already hinted strongly in his press interviews that Cove will play a central role this season. Quite right too.

And Allenby, who acknowledges the failings of last season, has suggested his team are better prepared for this season than last, mainly thanks to the games being played in one block rather than odd games around the other formats. Speaking to the Somerset County Gazette he said: “I feel a huge amount more prepared – we’ve found a good formula in the 50-over competition in recent years but our T20 last year was not good enough.

“I learned a lot last year about what the guys can and can’t do and their best roles in the side and, having further established that in the 50-over games earlier this season, I feel really happy and settled with the 12 or 13 players we are going to use initially.

“We’re getting better – we are not the finished article in T20 yet but we hope that by the end of this competition we will have managed to establish a gameplan, which we haven’t done for a few years.

“If we can nail that early on then results will follow – hopefully we can keep our momentum going and progress deep into the tournament.”

The hosts will go into Sunday with one game under their belt as they beat Essex in a high-scoring game on Friday evening by 2 runs. Aaron Finch (56) and Dom Sibley (61) helped their team to 188-8 but Essex fell short despite Ravi Bopara’s 75.

Somerset played Surrey in our first 50-over game of the summer and it was a memorable win thanks to Roleof van der Merwe’s brilliant 150 turning a certain defeat into a win. So let’s hope history repeats and we kick-start the 20-over stuff with a win against same opposition too.

Somerset’s players must focus on their strength’s as a team and take the game to the opposition throughout. Successful T20 sides are bold and attacking and we haven’t seen this from one of our teams consistently since Craig Kieswetter was forced to retire prematurely. We have been bullied almost.

The squad is full of talent and the young players are gaining more experience with every game but they are not boys any more. They are Maynard’s men and it is time for them to deliver.