In 2019 Somerset prepare for the county’s twelfth season in the top tier of the County Championship, the longest unbroken run by any club currently serving in the First Division. It is a record to be proud of.
The last time Somerset were preparing for a season away from the top flight was back in 2007, and it would prove to be a memorable one. The two seasons prior to that were challenging for supporters of the cider county, as they finished second-bottom in 2005 and fell one place lower in 2006, the twelfth time they had gathered the ‘wooden spoon’ in Championship cricket. Say it quietly, but in the four-day game, Somerset were the worst team in the country.
So even the most positive Somerset supporter would have been hard-pressed to get too excited as 2006 fizzled out and the new year started.
But the club were handed some good fortune. One positive from the wretched 2006 campaign was the late arrival of Justin Langer to the West Country to replace Cameron White, who had been one of the few success stories. The Australian made little secret that he came initially to get some much needed match practice ahead of his country’s 2006/07 Ashes home series, after the Aussies famously lost the urn in England in the classic 2005 campaign. In that short time Langer took to Somerset and the locals very much took to him. So when JL was invited to return as captain for 2007 he accepted with some relish.
Another boost was Marcus Trescothick’s self-imposed exile from international cricket, prompted by his health issues. Tres pledged his full-time commitment to his home county and England’s loss would be very much Somerset’s gain.
Two more success stories from 2006 included new signing Charl Willoughby and Peter Trego, who performed admirably in a struggling side.
To boost the squad further Director of Cricket Brian Rose re-signed Stefan Jones and another huge development during pre-season was the sudden and largely unexpected arrival on the scene of a young keeper batsman born in South Africa but with a UK passport and ambitions to play for England. And Craig Kieswetter would certainly make a big impact on his adopted county.
Leicestershire came to Taunton for a game starting on 6th June 2007 – Somerset’s seventh in the campaign – and there had certainly been some fireworks in the first six, with Somerset winning 2, drawing 3 and losing game number 6 to Middlesex when they were shot away for a paltry 50 in the first innings. So they were keen to be back in the runs and get back to winning ways against a side they had beaten by 198 runs in game 2, with Stefan Jones proving to be an unlikely batting hero in that game scoring 114 batting at number 9.
In the Leicestershire team for the Taunton game was future Somerset player Jim Allenby and a 20 year-old Stuart Broad, who was being touted as an England player even then. They were captained by Darren Robinson and Paul Nixon donned the gloves.
Leicestershire won the toss and elected to bat, but this looked a poor decision as they slipped to 88 for 5 before being shot away for 168. Opener Tom New top scored with 33 against the bowling of Jones (6-61) and Caddick (3-64) with Willoughby grabbing one for luck.
Somerset made this total look ridiculous as they closed day 1 on 357 for 1 after 60 overs – a lead of 189 – with Trescothick and Hildreth both unbeaten on 153 and 55 respectively. Neil Edwards was the Somerset man had who departed after a fine 133 (24 x 4) in an opening stand of 233 with Tres, who he had initially outscored.
The next day Tres fell for 182 (27 x 4) with the score on 408 and White entered the fray hitting a quick fire 114 (12 x 4, 2 x 6) and, when Hildreth was the fourth man out for 162 (21 x 4), the score was 625. Trego (18*) and Kieswetter 36 (4 x 4, 2 x 6) moved things along but when the latter fell skipper Langer declared on 675 for 5. Somerset had four centurions in one innings, equalling a record set in April against Middlesex.
Somerset’s lead was 507 and there was only going to be one result.
Leicestershire’s bowling figures were not for the fainthearted with David Master (3-130) and Broad (2-124) the only to take wickets.
The home team refused to take the foot off the pedal and a result inside two days looked probable as Leicestershire slipped to 85 for 6. But Allenby (43) and Mansoor Amjad (46) slowed things down and they limped to 188 for 8 at the close with Broad 14* and Masters 2* after 48 overs.
The two helped add a further 60 runs the next morning but Willoughby mopped up, removing Broad (35) and last man Walker (8), to finish with 5 for 82, leaving Masters not out on 31.
Leicester were all out for 248 handing Somerset a win by a whopping innings and 259 runs, a new record beating the previous best set in 1927 when Worcestershire were defeated by an innings and 199 runs at Broad Walk, Bristol. This remains Somerset’s biggest winning margin.
Somerset would win their next game by an innings too, this time with 151 runs in the bag against Gloucestershire at Bristol. To compliment this they were also promoted in the Pro40 competition.
One season after their twelfth wooden spoon Somerset were once again a club and team to be reckoned with. Wisden described them as producing a “constant bravura, a jaunty confidence and an envied competitive edge to suggest they may even be one of the best teams in the country.”
Somerset finished as comfortable champions with 10 wins, 5 draws and only one defeat as they piled up 266 points, 51½ ahead of second-place Notts.
Somerset were back in the top flight, and they have been there ever since.