As The Incider’s correspondent from a distance, it has been great to keep track of the fantastic run the club have been on en-route to the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup. It seems like only yesterday that I was in Birmingham watching us sadly lose the semi-final, yet that was three years ago. Whilst a number of faces who played that day are still around, the added experience and skill gives me far more confidence that the 25th May will be our day.
Somerset have never had a consistently good opening pair in either one-day format in my opinion since the end of the Kieswetter/Trescothick duo at the top. Whilst Myburgh, Allenby, Steve Davies and others have all had good spells, there has never been that solid grounding that you need to succeed in the One-Day format. The rise in England’s One Day team can clearly be seen in the success of the two dominant opening pairs – firstly Hales and Roy, and then Roy and Bairstow.
This season in the competition we’ve found a strong pairing at the top in Azhar Ali and Tom Banton, and with Pete Trego providing his regular support at three the solidity at the top has been crucial. Banton has been the man to get all the plaudits, with Michael Vaughan comparing him to Kevin Pietersen, and his form has warranted it. In his first consistent run of senior XI games he has scored two centuries and two half-centuries, with three coming in the last three innings to help see Somerset over the line. What has also impressed me is his strike rate at 93, showing he is a front foot player rather than a more cautious opener. The experience of Ali and Trego around him in the order must help, with both also having centuries under their belt in this campaign too.
Whilst the middle order has not been as fruitful in producing the runs (only one half century in 17 innings between Tom Abell and George Bartlett), it is topped and tailed by the two Somerset rocks of consistency in James Hildreth and Lewis Gregory. The former has been his usual self, scoring three half-centuries at an aggressive 97.97 strike rate, but Gregory has been something else.
His form this season across the formats has been electric, and he surely must be in contention for an England place in the near future as a result. This year he has also scored three half-centuries, but his have come at a rapid strike rate at over 140 – an aggression that turns the screw when building a tough score for the opposition to chase. Whilst his bowling in this format has not been as astounding as his County Championship returns, that he is in such form means there’s a great chance he could turn it on in the final. If he does he’ll be even more of a force to be reckoned with.
The bowling attack is where Somerset have the most variety and depth, from express pace to Tom Abell’s medium pacers, and the spin is varied between Azhar Ali’s Legbreaks and van der Merwe’s left-arm Orthodox bowling.
Craig Overton has been in great form, taking 20 wickets with both a fantastic average at 17.5 and crucially in the limited overs format, an economy of under 5. He’s been well supported by Josh Davey (an underrated limited overs bowler) with 12 and van der Merwe with 11.
The variety of both batting and bowling that we have in the squad gives us a great chance in the final. Hampshire have been in outstanding form and we will be the underdogs, but our side is talented enough to let us dream. It’s been 18 years since we last won the competition – hopefully that dry spell ends on Saturday.