It seems that with ever-increasing speed we have once again reached the start of the Specsavers County Championship season. It hasn’t been an off season without issues: the membership prices being generally unpopular with the Somerset faithful; Lee Cooper’s unexpected departure as CEO after such a short spell in charge, and the ball-tampering saga which resulted in the cancelling of Bancroft’s overseas deal.
However, it’s equally important to remember that there have been positives as well. Craig Overton was one of the few positives from England’s awful winter, standing up to be counted at times when many of his more senior teammates wilted. It was also fantastic to see Jack Leach get some international recognition as well. With England being the ones to raise doubts over his action, for it to only take a season to prove to them that he could tweak it and still perform is a fantastic testament to his work rate and desire.
However, it can be said that the most exciting performance for an England side was Dom Bess’ for the Lions in the West Indies. Performing not just with the ball but with the bat, if he continues to develop both of these skillsets then I can foresee him becoming the regular England test spinner. With it becoming increasingly obvious that Moeen Ali is too inconsistent, especially with the ball, Bess’ skill set matches could match what the England team want and need.
With all this international recognition, it is hard to not be at least somewhat excited for the upcoming season. Yet in the back of your mind I think all Somerset fans fear what happened at the start of last season. A terrible start, which feels it has greater chance to occur due to the lack of match-time due to the weather, instantly puts us around the relegation zone and in yet another dog-fight for survival.
One has to hope that the positives seen from the Ireland warm-up match are transferred into the opening game against Worcestershire. Trescothick scoring with ease, the youngsters Bartlett and Byrom knocking up good scores, and the pace bowling attack taking the wickets were great things to see. With Hurry and Kerr not signing any senior professionals aside from Renshaw as their overseas, I think it is clear to see their faith in the young batsmen on the fringes of the team.
It is the batsmen who are under the most pressure at the start of the season. With the collective slump in form at the start of the season last year (aside from Elgar), no one came close to scoring the fabled 1000 runs, or even averaging over 40. If this is to be a successful campaign on the pitch, the likes of Tres, Renshaw, Hildreth and Abell will need to find their batting rhythm quickly to aide the bowlers.
Overall then, I feel there’s a both a lot to be excited about with the County Championship, and almost equally a lot to be nervous about. A poor start could easily see us fall into a similar position to where we were last season, but equally a strong start, the batsmen firing, and Abell’s captaincy could see us surprise those who predict us to be near the bottom. Time will tell as to which is right.