Somerset head to Lords for the final of the One Day Cup on Saturday. Tom Abell and his team will be facing the current holders of the competition – a side who I predicted at the start of the competition would struggle to repeat their success of last season!
The same Hampshire who only a couple of weeks ago inflicted a comprehensive defeat in the group game at Taunton. But significantly Somerset’s have, since that nadir, hit a purple patch of form that has taken them through tough away quarter and semi-finals at Worcester and Nottingham.
Hampshire by contrast will be without the two men most responsible for their run this season. They topped the south group winning 7 of their 8 games before brushing aside Lancashire in the semi-final. The absence of James Vince and Liam Dawson, due to their selection in the England World Cup squad, is a huge miss and will have titled the odds back in Somerset’s favour but Hampshire remain a strong one day outfit with several players capable of winning the game on their own, particularly Tom Alsop, who is developing into a fine wicketkeeper batsman, and Rilee Rossouw
Somerset’s main concern is Tom Banton’s back spasm. While Jason Kerr played the injury down on Tuesday evening we don’t know whether this was genuine or dressing room speak. Let’s hope it is the latter. Assuming Jamie Overton, who can come back for this game as his loan to Northants is only for championship games, plays the final choice is between Josh Davey and Tim Groenewald. Both have strong cases to play but Davey is the man in possession so I expect him to be retained.
Somerset should out-field their opponents so I believe the outcome will be decided by whether Somerset’s batsmen and bowlers relish the Lords atmosphere or freeze. Surely, surely our run as perpetual runners up has to end some time soon.
My mindset going into Saturday is to enjoy it. Going to Lords is something to be cherished especially the last final at the home of cricket. I am lucky enough to have experienced the highs of several Somerset wins in St John’s Wood but one in particular is extra special.
Cup finals are, whoever you support, in whatever sport, something that will stay with you and have context in our lives. Those of us old enough to have experienced any or all of our finals will have very personal memories of each. My thoughts will always go back to September 1979 the end of a glorious season for Brian Rose’s side and a return to the scene of the previous year’s loss to Sussex. We had of course been thrown out of the B&H Cup after the events of Worcester but from that moment in late May the team had seemed destined to finally win something.
Northants were the opponents but Somerset were not to be denied. A Viv Richards century propelled Somerset to 269-8, a well above par score for that era, closing the innings with the momentum of Joel Garner’s 24 off 26 balls.
Northants reply was in tatters at 13-2, Garner took both wickets before Geoff Cook and Alan Lamb added 113 but once they were separated wickets fell at regular intervals. For a glorious hour we were able to watch our boys comfortable in the knowledge that victory was ours. Garner finished with 6-29 while all the others chipped in with tight spells. Somerset won by 45 runs and Dad and I joined the rest of the Somerset supporters lucky enough to be there that day on the outfield as Brian Rose famously lifted the trophy. Looking back on it I have much clearer memories of the ’79 final than the one the year before. That is partly, I am sure because we won the latter and lost in ’78 but I think it was also because I made a conscious decision to remember the ’79 final as the one the year before had gone by in a flash. It was all a bit overwhelming for a teenager the first time.
A cherished memory that can never be repeated and one that led to a period of unparalleled success for Somerset. Saturday could be the start of something similar for Tom Abell’s side.