2014: That was the season that was! – Part 1 March & April

Year that was 1March

  • Somerset started the month in the warm sunshine in South Africa on a two-week training camp. They spent some valuable time outside in the first week before being forced indoors for the second week by rain. Jamie Overton missed the trip with tendonitis, but was bowling in the nets again by the end of the month.
  • Back home, Somerset continued their pre-season preparation with a three-day draw against Worcestershire at Taunton. They were soon in trouble in bowler-friendly conditions, collapsing to 119 all out, new-signing Johann Myburgh making an unbeaten 21 in his first game for the club. In reply Worcestershire notched up 367 to establish a first innings lead of 248, Craig Meschede impressing with four wickets. But Somerset showed good form with the bat second time round reaching 317-3 with Nick Compton making a ton and Trescothick and Kieswetter both making fifties and James Hildreth 42*.

#Nos confident

  • Somerset continued that batting form into their next warm-up game at the County Ground against Middlesex, with Tres sharing an opening stand worth 204 with Chris Jones against a strong bowling attack. Tres was eventually dismissed for 112, while Jonesy retired on 146*. Gregory and Meschede both smashed 50s to take Somerset to 508-7. Earlier in the game, Middlesex were dimissed for 190, Lewis Gregory showing signs of the form that was to bring him plenty of attention during the season, getting the ball to swing and finding the edge to finish with figures of 5-58.
  • After the two games Director of Cricket Dave Nosworthy reported plenty of positive signs but expressed concern about injuries to some of the bowlers.
  • On the international front, after Somerset’s game with Worcestershire, Craig Kieswetter was called up to cover an injury in England’s squad for the World T20 Cup in India and Bangladesh. Meanwhile George Dockrell took two Zimabwean wickets to get Ireland’s World T20 campaign off to a winning start.

April

  • Somerset travelled up the M5 for their final pre-season game against old rivals Gloucestershire at Bristol. Pete Trego took four wickets on a rain-hit first day which left the hosts in trouble at 153-8 before Somerset’s batters got in some more useful batting practice in reaching 361. Hildy made his first 100 of the season, while Compo continued his good early form with 83 and Alex Barrow made a useful unbeaten 36.
  • With the pre-season period over, Nosworthy expressed his satisfaction, saying “we couldn’t have asked for a better preparation period”.
  • A few days later, Somerset made a faltering start to their first-class campaign, being dismissed for just 192 against Leeds/Bradford MCCU at Taunton. Only a 66-run partnership for the last wicket from Alfonso Thomas and Jamie Overton pushed the hosts’ total up towards any kind of respectability. Thomas starred with the ball when the students batted, taking four wickets to help skittle them out for just 142, while Meschede and Jamie Overton picked up two wickets a piece. Somerset exhibited much more resolve second time around with the bat, Trescothick being dismissed just five runs short of a well-deserved 100 when he was run out by a direct throw. With Hildreth making an unbeaten half-century and Jones and Compton both making 40s, Somerset declared on 255-3, setting the students a notional 306 to win before the match was called off as a draw. Tres said the team was in “good shape” and declared himself “pretty happy with where we are”. http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/692699.html )
  • Somerset’s championship season began in earnest a few days later against 2013’s runners-up and early favourites Yorkshire in warm spring sunshine at the County Ground. Yorkshire’s batsmen dominated day one, but with the Tykes looking set to push on and post a score in excess of 500, Somerset’s bowling attack – depleted by injury – fought back to take the last five wickets for just 48 runs to dismiss Yorkshire for 450. Somerset continued their fightback, batting through the whole of day 3 to notch up a commanding total of 553, provoking hopes of an unlikely victory among the Somerset faithful. Mybs top scored with 91 and Chris Jones posted his highest LVCC score of 75. There were also half-tons for Gregory, Hildreth (easing past 11,000 first class runs in the process), Kieswetter and Meschede. After last season’s disappointments with the bat, this was an extremely encouraging performance, with most of the team making sizeable contributions despite some hostile fast bowling from Plunkett. In 2013, we only passed 400 on three occasions and didn’t reach 500 all season. The match ultimately petered out into a dull draw as Thomas joined Craig Overton on the injury list and Somerset were reduced to just two front-line bowlers. Yorkshire settled for an extended net with just 50 runs coming between lunch and tea. http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/692725.html
  • After the warm sunshine at Taunton, temperatures were far more typical for April as Somerset headed north to Chester-le-Street to take on the 2013 champions Durham. With Thomas and Kirby out injured, a largely young, inexperienced Somerset bowling attack struggled to maintain control for key periods of the opening day with 30 runs given away in no-balls. But it was to their credit that on a pitch favouring batsmen and against a strong wind, they stuck to their task and still picked up maximum bowling points, dismissing Durham for a par score of 308, when the hosts were threatening at one stage to make 400 plus. On day 2, with Compton dropping down the order to number 8 with a neck spasm, Somerset were bundled out for just 185, losing 4 wickets for just 19 runs, before Trego restored some respectability with a belligerent 48. By the end of the day though, the visitors had fought back valiantly to reduce the hosts to 152-7. An amazing spell after tea saw Somerset take 5 wickets for only 36 runs – 3 of those wickets cost just 1 run. With day 3 lost to the weather, Durham skipper Paul Collingwood drew some local criticism for batting on into the fourth morning, eventually declaring on 213-9. Gregory and Trego took seven wickets between them in both innings. In reply, Compton and Kieswetter forged a superb partnership of 154 runs in 43 overs on the final afternoon to secure a draw and deny a Durham push for victory in fading light. Somerset fans still harboured hopes of a late dart for victory, but the run rate required was climbing ever higher and ultimately the sensible decision was made to make the game safe. http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/692737.html
  • So with two draws in the bag, Somerset travelled to Hove to play Sussex, the team that had humbled them at Horsham the previous year. In a complete reversal of that fixture, Somerset comprehensively beat the early Division 1 league leaders, with Trescothick scoring his first ton in 18 months. Day one was almost washed out by the weather, with Somerset reaching 83-3 by the close. On day two Trescothick converted his overnight 39* into 116 against a strong attack in bowling friendly conditions, with Chris Jordan firmly pressing his case for an England Test place and the batsmen having to work for their runs. With Alviro making 76 off 135 balls and Gregory and Myburgh sharing a spirited 75-run last-wicket stand, Somerset took their eventual score on to 372, some way above the 250 Nos thought would be a challenging total on this wicket. There was an added bonus before the close when Thomas managed to nip out danger man Ed Joyce, fresh from scores of 117 and 151* earlier in the month. Somerset then utterly dominated day three, taking 15 wickets to stand on the brink of victory. First they dismissed Sussex mid-afternoon for just 142, Gregory taking his second 5-fer of his career, before Tres enforced the follow-on. Somerset then took a further six wickets before the close to leave the Seasiders on the ropes on 162-6, still needing 68 runs to make their visitors bat again. It was a superb, testing, sometimes hostile bowling performance from the Cidermen. Only Luke Wells, who carried his bat for an excellent 79* in Sussex’s first innings and skipper Ed Joyce, who scored a stubborn 93 in their second, showed the resilience needed to bat on the surface. Somerset needed just 75 minutes on day 4 to finish Sussex off and hand themselves a first win of the campaign by an innings and 11 runs and Sussex their first defeat. The win took Somerset into second place in the table behind Sussex. Gregory recorded his best match bowling figures for the second game in a row. http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2014/engine/match/692745.html
  • Steve Kirby’s plans to be ready for the new season suffered a further setback following his shoulder operation last October. Despite his rehab going well, Kirbs had been struggling with his ankle since the South Africa trip and found himself unable to run or bowl. The club announced that he faced a further operation on his ankle and would need four to six weeks out to recuperate.

#Kirby injury blow

  • Somerset looked to bolster their bowling reserves by announcing the singing of three players on summer contracts: Josh Davey – formerly of Middlesex, who’d spent the winter training at Taunton at his own expense – James Burke and Callum Stewart.
  • Another new signing announced this month was Australian Dirk Nannes who was recruited for the forthcoming NatWest T20 Blast campaign, to be played largely on Friday evenings from May onwards. Dirk said: “I am now living very close to Taunton, so it feels like I’ll be playing for my local team.”

#Nannes signs

  • Alex Barrow had a busy month, scoring a career best 168 to help Somerset Seconds to a four-wicket victory over Worcestershire at the County Ground. Later in the month, he had an emergency call-up to join the first team in Hove when Kiesy went down with a stomach bug during the LVCC game against Sussex and Tres was forced to wear the gloves for a session.
  • There was great news for Somerset fans in the north of the county when the club announced that they would play a fixture in Weston-Super-Mare on 11 May at Devonshire Road, home of Weston Cricket Club. Sadly for those with fond memories of watching Somerset play in Weston, the T20 warm-up game was ultimately called off due to the weather.