Somerset and local rivals Gloucestershire won a match apiece on an exciting day full of big hits which culminated in a close finish on Monday afternoon.
The sides played two friendly t20 matches in preparation for the new season, and despite the lack of many big names, it was a fun day out for over 300 hardy souls who braved the cold and the wind.
It was something a little different to Somerset’s usual pre-season programme, and Director of Cricket Matt Maynard said: “it’s important we don’t just concentrate on red ball cricket, as white ball cricket forms such a large part of the season these days. The skills for red ball and white ball cricket are slightly different but they are transferable so it will be a good test for the squad”.
Hamish Marshall played a scintillating innings in the first match, which Gloucestershire won by 80 runs. Chris Dent scored quickly for his 49, but it was Marshall who truly tore the Somerset bowlers apart. No one escaped punishment as he smashed the ball time and again to the (albeit very short) boundaries. He particularly enjoyed the area between the new Somerset Pavilion and the Andy Caddick Pavilion. The spectators almost bemusedly applauded his fifty (which came up off 20 balls) and his hundred (off 40 balls) and he finished on 180 not out from 70 balls, including 17 fours and 13 sixes. Had this been an official t20, it would have broken Chris Gayle’s record for highest individual score (175 not out).
There were fears that Somerset may fail to take a wicket, but in the end Gloucestershire lost two as they racked up 244 runs.
Somerset never looked like reaching their target, despite Marcus Trescothick’s encouraging innings of 45 after a poor 2014 t20 season. Opening partner James Regan, who had kept wicket tidily earlier on, hit a polished 22 opening the batting which will do him no harm ahead of a season where Craig Kieswetter’s injury could open up a first team spot for the young ‘keeper.
Meanwhile, Peter Trego was his usual self in striking 22 but, to the crowd’s disappointment, he was caught at cover. James Hildreth’s 19 and Lewis Gregory’s 26 were the only other innings of note as Somerset were all out for 164 from 18.3 overs.
Moving onto the second game, Somerset were much improved in winning by 8 runs. Batting first this time, a second wicket partnership of 71 between Trescothick (36) and Trego (43) gave Somerset a good base before a lively half-century from Hildreth (54) and contributions from Gregory, Johann Myburgh and Max Waller. With the wicket wearing a little, Somerset were content with a score of 186 for 6.
This time the Somerset bowlers were far more assertive, with Trego getting rid of Dent early before Adam Dibble had Ian Cockbain caught by Trescothick, who had taking up the wicket-keeping mantle.
Wickets continued to fall but Marshall was still there at 105 for 5, and he brought up his fifty with a six into the Sir Ian Botham Stand. With six overs remaining, Gloucestershire required just 43 more and should have cruised it.
But Trescothick snared another catch to get rid of Marshall off Jamie Overton, and the momentum swung back in Somerset’s favour. Dibble took two more wickets and Overton took the final scalp, first ball of the final over when Gloucestershire required nine from it to win.
Hildreth called the day a “good all round work out” in an interview with the Somerset official website. He acknowledged that the first game was “slightly disappointing”, but was happy with the team’s improvement in the second. He said: “we executed our plans better and bowled very nicely. Dibble bowled brilliantly and the spinners held up well in the middle”. Ahead of a campaign where he will be relied upon to help fill the void left by Nick Compton, he said: “I’m feeling okay about my cricket at the moment and on grass I have had a few starts and got a few scores which is always great and hopefully I can take that into the season.”
So it was a decent day for Somerset, and the turn-out from the fans for two relatively meaningless matches certainly emphasised the club’s excellent support. The team now return their attention to red ball cricket, with a three-day friendly against Durham MCCU starting on Thursday at Taunton Vale. Matt Maynard revealed on Twitter than Abdur Rehman (who was practising in the nets while the t20s were taking place) may play a part, and when asked of Tom Cooper’s availability, he responded by saying that he will play in next week’s three-day friendly against Lancashire at the County Ground.
- Many thanks to Alexander Davidson for the photographs used with this match report. www.alexanderdavidson.co.uk