Somerset begin their T20 campaign tonight with a match against Sussex Sharks. Jeremy Blackmore previews the game and speaks to the club’s new official one-day captain Alfonso Thomas about his hopes and plans for the season.
Somerset’s Nat West T20 Blast campaign gets underway this evening (Friday) as they host Sussex Sharks at the County Ground from 5.30pm.
The game will be the first match in charge for Alfonso Thomas as official Somerset one-day captain and also sees Pakistani Test player Sohail Tanveer making his debut for the club. Jamie Overton is also set to make his return to first-team action following his recent injury and could play alongside his brother Craig for the first time this year.
The Somerset team is fresh from chalking up their first victory of the season against Nottinghamshire in the County Championship at Trent Bridge and will be looking to keep their winning ways going in the short form of the game.
Thomas who has played in 93 T20 games for the county since he arrived in 2008, in which he has taken 122 wickets, is looking forward to the opener. He said: “The guys had a good win in the championship up at Notts which will give them confidence going into the game so we are all looking forward to it very much.
“We get great support from our fans and it’s going to be a packed house tonight so we will all be doing our best to try to make sure that we get the result that we want.
“I am really looking forward to leading the team out onto the pitch for the first game. The coach and I have been working on game plans for the last couple of months so now we are looking forward to executing them on Friday night.”
While this is Somerset’s first match of the 2015 competition, Sussex have already played two games, losing their opener to Kent at Canterbury by seven runs last Friday before returning to Hove on Sunday where they beat Gloucestershire by six runs.
Ahead of the game, Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard said: “We are all looking forward to playing our first T20 match of the season against Sussex at Taunton
“Sussex have already played two games so will have their plans together about how they want to play, while we have been busy with four-day cricket.
“However we have discussed the match and know what team we want to go with and how we want play so now we just want to execute our plans as well as we possibly can on Friday and come away with a good result.”
Somerset have had made sure of some practice in the shorter form of the game with two warm-up games against Gloucestershire at Taunton during pre-season. The Second XI have were involved in two T20 games against Sussex Seconds on Monday this week, giving valuable match experience to Jamie Overton and Max Waller who are both included in a 13-man squad for tonight’s game..
Somerset have signed Tanveer for this summer’s T20, who will be joined by big hitting Chris Gayle for the first half of the season and New Zealand’s Corey Anderson for the second half.
While Tanveer will make his debut tonight against Sussex alongside fellow Pakistan Test player Abdur Rehman, Gayle is still involved with the IPL and his first appearance in a Somerset shirt will be delayed until May 29 at Chelmsford.
The full Somerset squad for tonight’s game is: Alfonso Thomas (capt), Jim Allenby, Tom Cooper, Lewis Gregory, James Hildreth, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Abdur Rehman, Sohail Tanveer, Pete Trego, Marcus Trescothick and Max Waller.
Thomas ‘positive’ about the one-day captaincy
Speaking to The Incider about the one-day captaincy at the start of the season, Thomas said it was something which Maynard had discussed with him and Trescothick shortly after arriving at the club last autumn.
“That was a conversation Matt had with me when he got here, after having a chat with Marcus. I was able to do it and I’m obviously looking forward to doing it and hopefully it will be successful.”
Did Thomas have to do a lot of soul searching before making his decision? “I don’t think there was,” he said, “having worked with Matt at the Titans in Pretoria so for me that [the decision] was quite easy to do and I was very happy to do it.”
The Fonz, who is a veteran of T20 leagues all around the world clearly enjoys this form of the game: “Everything happens very quickly, but I look forward to that format. It’s going to be fine and we’ll be fine as a team as well, I’m very positive about it.”
Somerset did not have a good run in either form of white ball cricket last summer, something which Thomas acknowledges and is keen to put right.
“Our record wasn’t the best in the shortest formats of the game. That’s something that we’ve identified as a team and hopefully we can go out and somehow semi-final, final or maybe win a trophy, you never know.”
Thomas, who set a new county record of four wickets in four balls last season, said he wouldn’t seek to change too many things but said developing the club’s promising young bowlers was one of his key targets as captain.
“It’s important that we look after our youngsters. If you look at our record here over the last 12-48 months it’s probably not been as good as it has in the past. So I think one thing we have identified in one-day game is to try get the youngsters coming through and to just try and be brave really and obviously try and play entertaining cricket and hopefully that will get the crowds coming in.
Finally Thomas paid tribute to Maynard and the influence he was exerting at the club: “To me he certainly brings a calmness around the ground, calmness in the changing room.
“He’s the kind of guy that’s not a head-teacher. He’s not going to tell you something if you’re not comfortable doing it. He’s the first to say that he’s not out there to hold your hand and go and face the music, so he would like you to take ownership and hopefully that will stand us in good stead. I’m certainly looking forward to working with him.”
Update: Chris Jordan is available for action with Sussex tonight after being released by England. The fast-bowling all-rounder did not make the final England XI after being included in the squad for the current Test Match at Lord’s against New Zealand.