Into 2015: Where Do We Stand? by Matt Roller

into 2015So 2015 has arrived, and with it comes a year of optimism for fans of Somerset; a new director of cricket in Matt Maynard, an exciting new signing in Jim Allenby, and potentially a new era for the county. After a disappointing two seasons under the leadership of Dave Nosworthy, the winter has already seen names such as Rory Hamilton-Brown, Kevin Pietersen, David Willey and even Mahendra Singh Dhoni linked with the club, as the Cidermen look to replace key players with Nick Compton departing and Craig Kieswetter likely to be out injured for the whole season.

With the first County Championship fixture against Durham set to take place on April 12th, Matt Roller takes a look at the current state of the side, and identifies potential spots for improvement ahead of that date.

1: Marcus Trescothick – Captain (Age: 39, First-class runs: 22220 at 41.84, High Score: 284)

One man whose position in the team seems in no doubt is Marcus Trescothick. ‘Banger’ has led the side since 2010 with distinction, and his first-class record speaks for itself. There has been some rumours that he may give up the one-day captaincy to one of James Hildreth, Jim Allenby or Alfonso Thomas, but in the four-day team, his place is assured. His runs at the top of the order will be essential if Somerset are to challenge for the title this season.

2: Johann Myburgh (Age: 34, First-class runs: 6039 at 41.93, High Score: 203)

2014 was a mixed debut season for Myburgh, who has never really managed to nail down a spot for any of the three counties he has played for. Whilst his partnership with Trescothick had some decent returns last year, the South African’s off-spin is unlikely to be utilised on account of Matt Maynard’s desire to play two out-and-out spin bowlers, and as a result, he may find his place in the side up for grabs with a quartet of spinners – Rehman, Dockrell, Leach and Waller – in the squad. Additionally, James Middlebrook and Michael Thornley would be potential signings to boost the squad’s depth, while Tom Abell offers another option if the county trust his technique enough.

3: Tom Abell (Age: 20, First-class runs: 292 at 41.71, High Score: 95)

One of the finds of the 2014 season, Abell’s availability this season was expected to be limited, but it now seems he should be available for the majority of 2015. The Taunton-born batsman showed his excellent technique in his debut innings of 95 against Warwickshire, and will be in for an exciting test in Somerset’s top three. Many supporters have high hopes for him, and he may become a fixture in the side for years to come.

4: James Hildreth (Age: 30, First-class runs: 11717 at 42.45, High Score: 303*)

Another fixture in the side, Hildreth has played for Somerset on a regular basis since his debut in 2003, and he remains one of the most respected figures at the club. With his England ambitions seemingly gone, he can now focus fully on his run-scoring and vice-captaincy in the upcoming season, as he looks to atone for an underwhelming 2014.

5: Jim Allenby (Age: 32, First-class runs: 6656 at 40.83, High Score: 138*; Wickets: 254 at 25.79, Best Bowling: 6/54)

Potentially one of the best players on the county circuit, Allenby signed for the club (Link: https://www.thein-cider.co.uk/one-in-and-one-out-for-somerset-as-allenby-signs-in/) in November, and he will be one of the most important players in the side if there is to be a title challenge this year. Capable of being a first-change bowler, Allenby adds great balance to the side, with Maynard commenting on his addition “Jim is a quality cricketer and a very good player. What he will allow us to do is to go into games with two front line bowlers…plus Pete Trego, Allenby and Abdur Rehman, as well as another spinner.” He could be a key man.

6: Alex Barrow (Age: 22, First-class runs: 1000 at 21.27, High Score: 88) or James Regan (Age: 20, one First-class match, did not bat) – wicket-keeper

The wicket-keeping position is another that is up for grabs amongst the squad. With the news that Craig Kieswetter is considered ‘unlikely’ to be available for the whole of 2015, (Link: https://www.thein-cider.co.uk/kiesy-unlikely-to-play-for-somerset-in-2015-season/) it looks as though there are three options from which Maynard must choose his ‘keeper. Last year’s stand-in Alex Barrow is a dogged batsman, who can score runs, but he has a modest first-class record, and number six could be a position of too much responsibility for him. Youngster James Regan is highly rated by those who have seen him play on a regular basis, and had a prolific season with the bat for Somerset Seconds and Taunton St Andrews, but again, batting at six may prove beyond him, given the large step up required. The final option is to dip into the transfer market and sign recently-released Hampshire keeper Michael Bates. His batting was not rated highly enough at the Ageas Bowl, but he has a superior record to Barrow and Regan, and his glove-work is brilliant.

7: Peter Trego (Age: 33, First-class runs: 7224 at 32.98, High Score: 141; Wickets: 339 at 35.55, Best Bowling: 7/84)

Another stalwart of the Somerset line-up in the modern era, Trego is a cult figure at the County Ground, and, like Allenby, helps the balance of the team. He can take the new ball and swing it, or bowl mid-way through an innings and keep the run-rate down effectively, as well as being a renowned aggressive player in the lower-middle order.

8: Lewis Gregory (Age: 22, First-class runs: 593 at 19.76, High Score: 69; Wickets: 70 at 27.57, Best Bowling: 6/47)

Gregory bowled in a consistently excellent manner in the 2014 season, when he finally managed to nail down his spot in the side. His batting record in the first-class game is not as good as he would have liked, but he has a good set of numbers in one-day cricket, included a magnificent hundred against Durham last year so it may improve with time.

9: Craig Overton (Age: 20, First-class runs: 514 at 23.36, High Score 99; Wickets: 55 at 29.60, Best Bowling: 5/63)

After he missed the majority of the 2013 season with injury, Craig Overton grabbed his chance in the first team last season, and bowled with aggression and accuracy, earning himself a call-up for the England Lions. His stats are exceptional for a man of his age, and he will undoubtedly be looking for a maiden first-class hundred this season.

10: Abdur Rehman (Age: 34, First-class wickets: 529 at 26.15, Best Bowling: 9/65)

Arguably the best full-season overseas signing for the county since Murali Kartik, fans will be hoping Rehman can repeat the success he had in his first spell with Somerset in 2012. Whilst that spell may be remembered as one in which he suffered a 12-week ban due to failing a drugs test, it must also be noted that he took a great deal of wickets, including 27 in the County Championship at 14.19. He will be looking to return to the international fold if he plays well in 2015.

11: Jack Leach (Age: 23, First-class wickets: 23 at 34.95, Best Bowling: 5/63)

With Matt Maynard having stated that he intends to play Trego, Allenby, two frontline seamers and two out-and-out spinners, giving “people like Jack Leach, George Dockrell and Max Waller a real opportunity to play First Class cricket with a high class spin bowler [Rehman] and learn from him, which gives the captain some great options”, it seems as though Leach will start the season in the side. Having played a lot of Second XI cricket in the first half of last season, the Taunton-born slow left-armer broke into the side in August, and bowled with control, taking wickets at key points. He may just edge Dockrell, although if the Irishman has a good World Cup, he will be right in contention.

Who is missing?

The obvious exclusion here is Alfonso Thomas, but after he broke an ankle playing golf in October, the season’s start may come too soon for him. However, if he is fit, he would come in for the second spinner, due to the nature of English pitches in April.

I would doubt that Tim Groenewald nor Jamie Overton will make the first game of the season as things stand but, with Maynard expressing a desire to rotate the pace attack, they should get a chance and their presence will add to the depth of the squad and place pressure on the other seamers, which can only be a good thing. They both should enjoy extended runs in the one-day sides too.

Also on the staff are Josh Davey and Adam Dibble. Both will have obvious ambitions to play a part in the first team in 2015 but will have to wait for their chance, no doubt, and will need to seize that chance should the team management come calling. Like Dockrell, Davey should have the chance to show what he can do during the upcoming World Cup, in which he is expected to compete for Scotland.

Max Waller is likely only to feature in the one day competitions – the t20 most definitely but he has ambitions to play 50-over cricket for Somerset too.