How Somerset fared: At the start of the season I think most Somerset fans would have been happy merely to stay up in the championship and to compete in the limited-overs competitions. In the end only the first part of that happened, but even then the circumstances were disappointing.
In the championship it was a season of two halves. The first 8 games included good draws with quality teams, a near miss against Lancs, two wins over Sussex and an excellent win at home to Durham where the batsmen beat the weather on day 4. The encouraging part of our start was that everyone was contributing: Tres scored his first century in over a year, Lewis carried on where he left off last year, and Craig Overton was coming on leaps and bounds. The batting was much more solid and patient than the previous year and big scores were being made, perhaps an effect of Dave Houghton’s appointment. When the batting did collapse, often the lower order were able to pick up the pieces.
We were the only unbeaten team in division 1 going into the second half of the season, and that was when cracks started to show. A batting collapse on the first morning at Trent Bridge was the catalyst for our first loss. We then couldn’t finish off Lancs at home on a flat deck, perhaps an effect of our main strike bowler, Jamie Overton, being out of form and dropped. An in-form Jamie would have made a huge difference this season. An average performance at Uxbridge was followed by an unconvincing win over Northants, where the bowlers almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Somerset briefly topped the table after this win, and there was optimism going into the one-day cup.
After the one-day break the team looked tired and several players, such as, Craig Overton were tailing off. The final four games brought one loss and three draws, and apart from a brief spell in the Middlesex game Somerset never looked like one of the top sides. The one bright spot was the emergence of Tom Abell, who hit 95 on debut.
The t20 competition was always going to be difficult without Jos Buttler, and it showed. The highlights were two excellent wins over Hampshire and a close home win over local rivals Gloucs, but a lack of middle-order firepower proved Somerset’s undoing. Craig Kieswetter was in inspired form before his injury, and Dirk Nannes proved his class throughout.
The one-day cup was a huge disappointment in the end. Somerset started well, with an incredible win over Durham, a good tie with Notts and wins over Warks and Middlesex in the first five games. With 7 points from 10 with 3 to play Somerset looked certain to progress. But it all fell apart with poor losses to Sussex and Glamorgan where Somerset never looked in the game, and ultimately there was too much to do in the last game versus Surrey. Highights were excellent batting performances from Peter Trego and Colin Ingram, while Jack Leach was a revelation. Worryingly, the usually-reliable Alfonso Thomas struggled, taking just 10 wickets at 47 with an economy of 6.5.
What was good? For most of the season the batting was solid and patient, and large totals were made more frequently than previous seasons. The lower order batting was excellent, often recovering the side after a middle order collapse. Lewis Gregory had an excellent season with the ball, while Alfonso Thomas was reliable as always.
Where do Somerset need to improve? Several areas. The middle order was shaky all year with James Hildreth and Craig Kieswetter having below-par seasons. All too often dropped catches cost Somerset. Perhaps a fielding coach is needed after the departure of Chris Taylor at the end of 2013. Spin was also an issue, with George Dockrell having another average season.
What was good? Craig Kieswetter and Peter Trego were reliable at the top of the order, with the former hitting six 50s in 10 innings before his injury. Dirk Nannes was the group stage’s overall leading wicket-taker with 24, while Max Waller had an economy of just 7.17.
Where do Somerset need to improve? Once Kieswetter and Trego were out Somerset too often couldn’t finish the innings off well. Alviro Petersen and James Hildreth are quality but we needed a reliable big hitter at the end.
What was good? The first five games. Quality wins over Durham, Warks and Middlesex, and a good tie with Notts. Peter Trego hit centuries in successive matches, while Colin Ingram proved to be a reliable batsman. Bowling-wise Jack Leach had an excellent tournament after George Dockrell was dropped.
Where do Somerset need to improve? Difficult to say exactly what went wrong in those last three games, but I think the bowling was quite unreliable overall. Alfonso Thomas and Lewis Gregory took plenty of wickets but had an economy over six. Thomas’s death bowling was surprisingly poor all tournament. With the bat we missed Craig Kieswetter hugely to give us quick starts.
Player of the Season:
This is difficult, as nobody had a standout season, but I will say Lewis Gregory who built on the previous season. 43 wickets and 296 runs in 9 championship games is an excellent return for the young all-rounder. He contributed well in the limited-overs competitions, the highlight being an incredible century in a match-winning partnership with James Hildreth in the one-day cup against Durham.
Craig Overton had a good season after being injured for most of 2013 and earned an England Lions call-up. He tailed off towards the end but 40 wickets at 30 in 12 championship games was a good return. With the bat he made several vital lower order contributions, with 3 fifties including an agonising 99 against Lancs.
Could have done better:
Apart from a couple of incredible innings, James Hildreth was incredibly frustrating again. In those innings he proved what a talent he is, but too often he threw his wicket away in the 20s or 30s.
Views of our new Director of Cricket. What do you hope Matt will bring to the club and what should his priorities be for 2015:
Matt’s main priority needs to be helping all our players play to their potential as too many underperformed this season. Nick Compton, James Hildreth, Craig Kieswetter, Jamie Overton and Craig Meschede can all improve on this year hugely. A couple of signings wouldn’t go amiss, namely a quality limited overs batter, a new overseas player and possibly a new quick bowler.
Areas for development for 2015, things we need to work on:
We need a fielding coach ASAP as across all formats catches were dropped which cost vital runs. As previously stated, several players can play much better (for example Hildreth averaged just 33 in championship and Kieswetter 36), so hopefully Maynard can motivate them and help them to improve. Also I think tiredness became an issue towards the end of the season as performances dropped off dramatically, so fitness could be improved. I think that the bowlers should be rotated more in championship cricket – Thomas, Craig Overton and Gregory all tailed off towards the end as they had played the majority of games. A fit and firing Jamie Overton would be a huge asset next year, while Tim Groenewald should be able to contribute. The team right now is not far from a trophy-winning one, but I think next year would be a success if we are challenging right up to the end in at least two competitions.
Player to watch for in 2015:
Tom Abell, who has made the best start by a young Somerset batsman for several years. He looks a mature young man who is certain to be in Somerset’s first-choice XI next season. He hit 3 fifities in 4 games, including 95 in his debut innings.
If they were available, who would you sign for next season?
- Domestic: Graham Onions
- Overseas: AB de Villiers for all formats, James Faulkner for t20s.
There was much promise from some youngsters this season but others regressed. Senior players too often underperformed. All areas can be improved as all of our players can be better. Hopefully Matt Maynard will be able to unlock their potential.
Mark: 6out of 10