The simple answer is yes. At this point last year I would have said no. Flat pitches at home, an inconsistent side, and slow starts to the season put this out of reach, as well as a weak mental approach. However, the arrival of Chris Rogers changed the team, with his approach strengthening the side’s mentality, as well as getting results pitches produced at the Cooper Associates County Ground. Whilst we still had a somewhat slow start to the season, we did not lose a game, building a platform a great second half of the season.
This season is different as we have a new captain in charge. Tom Abell is a Somerset faithful favourite, but will be leading the side having only been a regular in the side for two seasons, and having had an indifferent season with the bat last year. However, he comes across as having the right mentality to lead the side, and with senior players (plus Rogers in a coaching capacity) around him, he should be able to adapt to his new role, plus find the batting form we know he has the potential of reaching.
The winter signings have also aided to the answer becoming “yes”. In Steve Davies, Somerset have signed an outstanding wicket-keeper batsman, who has the ability to fill the gigantic hole vacated by Craig Kieswetter. Although he is less aggressive in his approach, the former Surrey man has shown his class in pre-season, impressing all with his performances both with the bat and the gloves. Peter Trego commented on BBC Somerset’s The Cricket Show (06/04/17) by saying:
“All of the guys have been in awe about the way he goes about his business as a batsman. He really is a phenomenal cricketer and a great signing. He truly could be difference for us.”
The other new signing is Dean Elgar. An international cricketer in form, he should hopefully replace the hole left by Rogers in the top three. Although Rogers’ form last season was not the most consistent, he did the job required of him by making sure we didn’t have a top order collapse, allowing the middle order to play with the freedom that makes them perform to their best.
Another factor in why I believe Somerset can win the County Championship is our quality of all-rounders. In Lewis Gregory and the Overton’s, we have three players on England’s radar for their ability with both bat and ball, and who, if they find consistency, will be a highly threatening force for all oppositions. Then, with the experienced all-rounders in Peter Trego and Jim Allenby, we have players who will provide consistency with both bat and ball. Roelof van der Merwe’s contributions can’t be forgotten about as well, as he provides Jack Leach with spin support whilst also being a more than capable batsman, as seen by his double century against Oxford MCCU.
In fact, it’ll be interesting to see how much game time Allenby gets in the Championship – although no one can deny his consistency and effectiveness with the ball, he is yet to get a century for Somerset. The arrival of Steve Davies means his slot at five will be taken, and with the lower middle order being fairly settled, his role in four-day cricket is not obvious.
So, the answer is YES – Somerset can win the Championship. Provided we can get a good start to the season, and players perform to their ability (an obvious point), I can’t see why not. I certainly hope so.