Cooper to make Somerset debut today against Lancashire

CoopsTom Cooper (left), who has joined Somerset for the whole of the 2015 season, will make his debut for the club in a three-day friendly against Lancashire at the County Ground starting today (Tuesday).

Overseas signing Abdur Rehman is also included in a 12-man squad with Director of Cricket Matt Maynard able to select from virtually a full complement of players for the first time this year. Only Alfonso Thomas, who is recovering well after breaking his ankle, is unavailable for selection.

Right-handed batsman Cooper spent Easter Monday morning yesterday working in the nets alongside his new team-mates, facing a variety of bowling to get used to the April conditions in England.Cooper, who is Australian by birth but qualified to play for the Netherlands, spent the English winter playing for South Australia, where he scored 626 runs in 10 Sheffield Shield matches, averaging 36.82 and making two centuries and four half-centuries.

There are three changes in total to the squad which went into last week’s first-class game against Durham MCCU. Cooper replaces Tom Abell, who was dismissed without scoring against the students, while Rehman comes into the side in place of fellow spinner Jack Leach.

Finally, Adam Dibble makes way for Craig Overton, who proved his fitness in the Second XI friendly against Worcestershire last week. It remains to be seen whether Overton will make the final XI or whether Tim Groenewald, who performed 12th man duties at Taunton Vale last week, will get a game.

While the focus will be on second division Lancashire over the next three days, Maynard, and skipper Marcus Trescothick, will have one eye on selection for next Sunday when Somerset open their Division One Championship campaign with a home tie against Durham. As such, the squad for today’s friendly gives a very strong indication of the likely starting XI for next weekend.

Maynard said: “We are treating the Lancashire match as our first proper game. I think we have been working nicely in our preseason building up the intensity and we need to make sure that when we do that the skills remain good as well, which is what we will be doing for the next three days. We will then have a short break to review things ahead of the game against Durham.”

Abdur Rehman gets in some batting practice, watched by keeper Alex Barrow. Photo by Alexander Davidson.
Abdur Rehman gets in some batting practice, watched by keeper Alex Barrow.
Photo by Alexander Davidson.

The Director of Cricket added: “We have got our full complement of players and this will be the first game for Tom Cooper and Abdur Rehman on the grass in this country for a little while so it might take them a little while to settle in.

“However it’s a good deck here at the County Ground and the practice has gone well so I’m hopeful that they will bed in quickly and get us some runs and wickets.”

Cooper was feeling confident after his practice yesterday morning and was looking forward to playing cricket again in in the match against Lancashire. He told the club website: “It’s very nice to finally be here in Taunton. Things all got sorted out a couple of months ago, so to actually be here at the County Ground at last is very exciting for me.

“My first few days in England have been a lot colder and wetter than I thought but today is great so hopefully we will get a few more days of sunshine and get this game in and then its full steam ahead.

“It has been good to get outside and practice in the nets with the Somerset boys, and as I haven’t picked up a bat for a couple of weeks it has felt good. I had a good hit out there this morning so I’m very excited to get back into things and everyone seems ready to go.”

Over the years Somerset have numbered a long list of Australian players, including Greg Chappell, Ricky Ponting, Cameron White and Justin Langer so how did he feel about following on from them?

“I guess I have got some pretty big shoes to fill but hopefully I can go out and do my job and score a lot of runs. More importantly is that the team has some success and wins some trophies.

“You play cricket to win games and to win silverware so that’s what we are aiming for. From what I have seen everyone is in a good place, there is a good hype around the town and of course it will take a lot of hard work but hopefully that will result in silverware at the back end of the season.”

Tom CooperWhat had he thought of Somerset so far?

“Living in Adelaide back home it’s not the biggest of cities going around. Taunton feels nice and relaxed, but the whole place, the town and the cricket club seem very friendly so hopefully it will be an enjoyable and productive six months stay.”

Talking about how he might fit into the line-up Cooper said: “Coming into the team a lot of people are in a settled spot so I’m not sure where I’m going to fit in. However my job is to score as many runs as I can wherever that is in the order so hopefully I can have some success.”

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s game Cooper said: “Hopefully it’s going to be a good hard hit out which is what you want going into a season as it gives you an indication of how you are going. Let’s hope for some good weather so we can put on a good show for everyone to see, and give us a good lead-in for the game against Durham at the weekend.”

The Somerset squad for the three-day friendly against Lancashire is: Marcus Trescothick (captain), Jim Allenby, Alex Barrow, Tom Cooper, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Abdur Rehman and Pete Trego.

Play gets underway at 11am. Entry to the game is free and refreshments will be available all day.