So the new season starts on Sunday with Somerset taking the long trip to Durham for what will be a difficult opening fixture against the three times County Champions. With new players in the squad and injuries and suspensions Alex Simpson picks the side he would pick to kick start the new campaign.
Batting: Due to the players in the Somerset squad, I believe that the bowling department is where the real competition is, with the top 5 in my side being pretty much uncontested. Trescothick and Abell are a developing opening partnership and had individual success last year, with Tres getting over 1300 runs, and with Abell getting his first century. With Rogers coming in at number three, hopefully that gap in the side that was there last season will be plugged, meaning that the there is less pressure on James Hildreth, the top scorer in the County Championship with 1620 runs, to rebuild if there is an early wicket. If all four of these are firing, then I believe we have arguably the strongest top four in County Cricket.
All-Rounders: In Peter Trego they have another consistent batsman who can both score runs rapidly and help the side recover from the collapse, whilst also being an experienced bowler in an inexperienced line up who can more than hold his own, taking 28 wickets last season. The first place that is in doubt in my side is that of Jim Allenby’s: he was poor in the County Championship last season, averaging only 23.35 with the bat and 31.65 with the ball, and with other all-rounders such as van der Merwe and Michael Leask looking for a space in the starting XI, he will be under pressure to perform, and will have to rely on all his experience to have success.
Wicket Keeper: Having played in all the warm up matches, it is undeniable that Ryan Davies will be the wicket keeper for the upcoming season. An England u19 international, he left Kent due to the presence of Sam Billings, but definitely has the potential to have success, and hopefully, like Rogers at 3, will plug the gap from last season, where the lack of Kieswetter meant there was a mix of Barrow, Ronchi, and Bates behind the stumps, and all had issues.
Seam Bowlers: This department is where Somerset are most competitive in – with the Overton Brothers, Gregory, Davey and Groenewald as well as others all competing for places, hopefully the performance levels will be high by all due to the pressure of others. I have gone with Josh Davey, Gregory and Groenewald as my three specialist seam bowlers. With Craig Overton being suspended, I would pick Josh Davey to replace him, as he has experience of playing strong opposition, as he did for Scotland in the World Cup, and will want to prove that he deserves to be a regular in the side. Lewis Gregory was a leading wicket taker last season, taking 41 @ 32.95, showing that he just needs slightly more control but is still likely to get wickets when needed. I have chosen Tim Groenewald because he will bring some experience and consistency to the seam attack, taking 39 wickets at 28.51 in 10 games.
Spin Bowler: It has to be Jack Leach. At the start of last season, we had Abdur Rehman being unable to take a wicket, with only 10 at 76.60 runs for each. When he returned to fitness and got back into the side, he took 16 wickets in 6 matches and showed why he should be first choice. However, it was interesting to see that Max Waller played in the warm up matches, and hopefully he will be considered for the County Championship, because his leg spin offers something completely different.
Alex’s team to play Durham:
1. Marcus Trescothick
2. Tom Abell
3. Chris Rogers (c)
4. James Hildreth
5. Peter Trego
6. Jim Allenby
7. Ryan Davies (wk)
8. Josh Davey
9. Tim Groenewald
10. Lewis Gregory
11. Jack Leach