We’re staying up! After a dreadful start to the season, we won four out of our last seven, after failing to win any of our first seven. However, despite the celebrations of the last day, there has been plenty to reflect on and learn from this season.
The form of Somerset’s batsmen has been a source of frustration both for management and the support. Last season, we had four batsmen score over 1000 first class runs. Yes, there are two less games this season, but when Steve Davies is your highest run scorer, something is wrong. Now, that isn’t a criticism of Steve Davies – in recent games he has stepped up to the plate and performed with the bat as a senior player should. However, his dreadful start to the season should’ve meant he was down the list.
The batting line up this season only gained some form of consistency in the last few games. We started the season with a top six of Tres, Elgar, Abell, Hildreth, Davies and Trego. All of them have the potential to score 1000 FC runs in a season. All of them with the ability to halt a collapse, and change a game. Yet none of them have done that enough. When the collapses happen, it ends up being the bowlers who put up a fight with the bat. It seems that there was, at least to start with, off the field issues, as it was mentioned that the batsmen weren’t working together as a unit, and were too focused on their own game to help each other out. Elgar excused (as he scored runs in the few games he was here), the likes of Trescothick, Hildreth and Trego need to reflect on their contributions. The first two have had a drop off of around 20 runs each on their county batting averages from last year to now. Trego’s average has more than halved.
This put Tom Abell in a really difficult position – he was made captain in what seemed the logical decision. However, his lack of experience and consistent form from last season seemed to carry over, and it ended up with him being dropped. When that news came through, I felt sorry for him, as it seemed like the uphill battle he was facing to try and get those more senior to him to perform had completely destroyed his game.
As well as having a senior batting line up not perform, the line-up has not been consistent, and it has been supplemented by youngsters thrown in at the deep end in recent matches. Whilst Byrom, Rouse and Bartlett have clearly got plenty of potential, a relegation battle is not the nice, somewhat pressure-free atmosphere you want for them to be introduced to the first team. Of course, they’ll need toughening up at some point, but I don’t think that should be happening from the first minute.
The loss of Adam Hose in the season as well was a big blow. He was a talent, with his performances starting to warrant a lot of praise. To lose him when he could’ve made a big difference in the middle order makes his reasons for leaving interesting.
The biggest batting selection question is one which was lacking. Johann Myburgh played a grand total of ZERO times in the County Championship this season. This is despite him performing admirably when called upon last season, and despite him being a consistent performer in the one day formats. I have seen it suggested that it may be a contract issue, with him potentially being on a white-ball only contract. However, I struggle to see why Somerset would allow that to be the case – it’s not like he’s Max Waller who stands little to no chance of playing in the four day format.
There has been some positives from this season though. And that is in the performances of the bowling attack. Craig Overton, especially since he has taken the role of leading the attack due to injuries to Gregory and Jamie, has found another level in his performances, and deserves his place on the Ashes tour this winter. At times he has been unplayable, and he is cementing his name as one of the best bowlers on the County scene.
The spin twins have come on as well. Leach has now taken over 100 first class wickets in two seasons, and is proving himself to be the most effective spinner in England. And, a suspect action?? Whatever was spotted in testing by the ECB was clearly so minor it wasn’t worth the scene they caused over it. Dom Bess has also come on leaps and bounds with his bowling, going from an unknown to now being another well-reputed English spinner. If Leach does get his warranted England call up, I don’t think we have to worry about not having a good quality spinner in back up. Bess has taken over 30 wickets this season, a ten wicket haul, and averages in his low-20s. This season has also seen him break several records as well, such as the stat that in the last 20 years, no Englishman has more County Championship wickets after 6 matches than Dom Bess!!
The bowling department has also done well when you consider the double-blow suffered by the loss of Lewis Gregory and Jamie Overton in quick succession. The former had done well as stand-in captain, and in leading the bowling attack had taken 21 wickets @ 23. Jamie had also done well in taking 12 @ 26, but it is starting to really concern me about the number of injuries he picks up. And it’s not just the quantity, it’s the fact that it seems every time he gets one he’s ruled out for the rest of the season
.This week has also seen the announcement of the news that Matt Maynard is leaving the club after three years in charge, as the club aim to split the Director of Cricket and Head Coach positions. In my opinion, the move has come at the right time – whilst there have been positives during his tenure, most notably the development of several homegrown talents, and last season in the RLODC and County Championship, for whatever reason this season has seen sub-standard performances from a talented squad, and a fresh face is most likely needed.
What our bowling attack has shown us though is that our homegrown talent is taking us forward. In Bess, Leach, the Overton’s and Gregory, we have an extremely strong bowling line-up, and if the likes of Byrom, Bartlett and Rouse can reach their potential alongside the likes of Abell and Hildreth, then Somerset should have a team to be proud of.