The new arrival joined from Glamorgan in a four-year deal that saw Craig Meschede head in the opposite direction in a season long loan deal. Jim has also represented Leicestershire and Western Australia and said the decision to leave Cardiff and head south to Taunton was “straightforward” and that the squad at the County Ground was “the best squad I have been involved with”.
Allenby had been a Glamorgan player for five-and-a-half seasons and was adored by the locals so, after so many years at Cardiff, what was the main reason to head south to Somerset?
“The thing that drove me here was to play at the highest level I could so to move up to Division One in the Championship is huge, but also to win trophies in one day cricket. It’s quite straightforward and there is no major story attached to it I guess. I just want to win some trophies.
“That coupled with Matt (Maynard) signing here and other circumstances where Somerset had a bit of a gap in the squad with people missing through injury and what-not.
“Glamorgan were happy to let me move on and were very supportive, especially once we realised we had different philosophies on the game and different ambitions in both the short and medium terms. They were fantastic through it all.
“It was amazing really; one week I had three more years at Glamorgan and the next I had signed for Somerset. It all happened real quick. Some of that was the advantage of knowing Matt already!”
Born in Perth and schooled in Western Australia, Allenby qualifies to play for England under residency rules, having earlier spent four years at Leicestershire, and has fierce ambitions to represent his adopted country.
It was Maynard who signed Allenby for the Welsh county midway through the 2009 season and the two formed a great working relationship, so was this a key part of Jim’s decision-making process?
“Yes that was big. Just knowing how good he is at what he does. It meant there were no real questions I had to ask him. What I knew about him from the past helped and knowing the players we have here made it a fairly straightforward decision.”
And the feeling is mutual. In 2010 Maynard called on the England selectors to take a serious look at Allenby while comparing him to the then much lauded Michael Carberry and Michael Lumb, saying: “To me, he’s a far better player than those two!”
And when Jim signed up for the cider county Maynard said: “I am delighted that Jim is joining us. Not only is he an outstanding player in all formats, he is a great bloke and a strong character and I am sure he will play a key part in helping us to build a cohesive and successful team. Whilst not a like for like replacement for Nick Compton, there is no doubt in my mind that Jim is a superb acquisition to a very talented Somerset squad.”
Allenby has a superb all-round record in Division Two of the County Championship, with a batting average of 40.83 and highest score of 138 not out. He has been Glamorgan’s leading run-scorer in the Championship for the last two years, scoring more than 900 first-class runs in 2014, and topped the side’s T20 batting averages and wicket-takers list.
He has a bowling average of 25.79 and has taken 254 wickets in four-day cricket. In 2014 he claimed 52 Championship wickets and his best bowling performance to date was the 6 for 54 he took in his final game for Glamorgan against promoted Hampshire having taken four wickets in the first innings.
This will be the first time in his career he has played Division One cricket so what role in the team does he think he will have?
“I’d like to think I will bat more and bowl less than I have done at Glamorgan. As you get older you want to spend more time at the crease and I see myself batting in the middle to start with in the Championship but I am not precious where I bat or bowl and will fit into any gaps. I’m very open-minded about it.
“I see myself bowling behind the guys we have already got as we have a very strong bowling unit.”
Having spent the majority of the winter back in Australia, Allenby joined his new team-mates for the training camp in Spain. So what are his initial impressions of the guys in the Somerset dressing room?
“Unbelievable. The professionalism and standards the guys set themselves in preparation, I can honestly say I didn’t think any cricket club was like that. And I have been blown away by it, and in a positive way. I have never seen anything like it, not even in Australia. So for me it is going to be a transition trying to catch up.
“And the guys are positive, more positive than they have been for a little while. Other people have noticed that and told me that. When talking to the players I know they are very up for this season.
This is the best squad I have been involved with and, ultimately, I need to perform on the pitch to be accepted.”
Allenby enjoys playing at Taunton and last season was a major star for the Welsh county when they professionally and meticulously put Somerset to the sword in a t20 game in front of a packed County Ground on a glorious Friday evening, this despite a brilliant 94 from Tregs. Jim remembers that night well although rather shyly recollects:
“Yes I got 96 not out and hit the winning runs. I enjoy playing at Taunton and have gotten used to playing here in recent years. When I was a bit younger I put a bit too much pressure on myself knowing what a good batting wicket it is but the last few years have got better and I am sure I will get more used to it.”
So how would Jim describe the welcome from the cider army and his new work associates?
“It’s been unbelievable. Everyone has been very welcoming and said some nice things to me, both walking around town and here at the club.”
Are there any obvious comparisons between Somerset and Glamorgan?
“I can honestly say I don’t see any likenesses at all. Glamorgan was great fun and a fantastic place but here it’s all about cricket and winning games of cricket. No-one makes any secret of that as they all want success and we want it straight-away and to win all games.
“In terms of my personality that suits me and that is what I want as well. So I have not really seen similarities just an overwhelming desire to win games and trophies. So all I want to do is bat well and bowl well and have a few drinks after to celebrate some wins. It’s really easy I guess?”
We welcome Jim Allenby to Taunton because he is one of county cricket’s great unsung heroes and a player who has performed to a high level for many seasons. This is an exciting signing for the club and he has the potential to be a big player and future captain of Somerset County Cricket. Let’s hope he achieves his obvious ambitions and wins trophies here and we are all raising a glass to Somerset success.