Somerset are straight back into County Championship action this Friday with Hampshire visiting the Cooper Associates County Ground.
Hampshire got off to the best possible start beating Worcestershire at Southampton by 196 runs but since then their form has been poor. Away losses to Surrey (by 139 runs) and Notts (203 runs) sandwiching a rain affected draw with Essex. As a result, Hampshire lie 4th in the table with 39 points, 11 points behind Somerset and having played a game more.
Sam Northeast and Mason Crane, both on the fringes of the new national selector Ed Smith’s thoughts, are injured and could be joined on the sidelines by Liam Dawson and Lewis McManus who both suffered finger injuries in the Notts game.
Hampshire’s new ball attack of Fidel Edwards and Kyle Abbott (20 and 13 wickets so far this season) is as strong as most sides in Division One but the back-up bowling, apart from Liam Dawson, is some way short of what is required in the top division.
The batting on the other hand has three high quality performers, county stalwarts James Vince and Jimmy Adams supported by Hashim Amla. While Vince hasn’t done his England chances any good so far this season Amla has proved his worth with 381 runs from 7 innings at over 54 to currently top the division one batting averages. His hundred on Monday in a rear-guard action was by all accounts Amla at his very best making batting look deceptively easy on a pitch that his teammates found almost unplayable.
For Somerset Marcus obviously misses out as he begins what we all hope will be a speedy recovery and it looks like Jamie Overton is still not fully recovered from his side strain. If Ed Byrom isn’t fit to return at the top of the order there is a chance that Johann Myburg might get reward for his runs in the seconds. The use of Steve Davies as an opener went well at Manchester however so he may be asked to continue allowing Somerset to look at different options in the middle order or even drop Matt Renshaw back to three.
While it is obviously a huge loss not to have Marcus at the top of the order the fact that all the specialist batsmen have made runs already this season allied to the strength in depth is reason for real optimism. It will be interesting to see if the skipper is prepared to back himself as the fourth seamer allowing either an extra batsman or the spin twins to play together.
While the forecast is not an equal of last weekend it looks pretty good for the four days so Somerset have an excellent chance of notching up win number 3 and keeping the pressure on leaders Notts who host Lancashire. While Somerset have a game in hand on the leaders they need to keep the gap to Notts, currently 17 points, under control before we move into one-day mode.
Carrying the positives drawn from the performance on the last afternoon at Old Trafford forward into this weekend will go a long way toward getting the result we all want.