Top of the South Group heading into the last few days of the preliminary stages, on a six game winning streak and having just comfortably beaten the team they are pursuing in Division One of the County Championship it has been a very, very good fortnight for Somerset County Cricket Club.
In itself a six-game winning run is something to be celebrated in a competition where the margin for error is pretty small and where the weakest team has more chance of beating the strongest than any other of the formats. But there is a lot, lot more to be positive about at the moment.
Somerset have shown over the past two weeks, since that utterly demoralising rain-shortened thrashing at The Oval two weeks ago, pretty much everything you need to be considered a serious contender in this year’s Vitality Blast.
Now, as this is a Somerset fans’ website we are allowed to go over the top for our team occasionally. But, for the benefit of non-Somerset supporters who read this blog (mainly Kent supporters it seems!) I’m going to be as objective as possible here.
The six wins have been achieved in vastly different ways from the demolition of Essex at Taunton a week ago to the calm, measured chase against Surrey last night and including a nerve-holding win at Hove.
The bowlers have been outstanding as a unit throughout this run, with Max Waller, Jamie Overton, Lewis, Jerome Taylor and RvdM all performing exceptionally well over the last fortnight.
So while the batting has continued at the level we would expect over a T20 campaign the fact that they have felt under less pressure than previously has been a welcome relief.
The other encouraging thing is that while Somerset have been on this run our rivals have stuttered and in the last couple of days been victims of no results. The end result of this is that while the teams chasing us have games in hand we have the points on the board and less games to play. I know which position I’d rather be in.
With two games to go Somerset have a very strong chance of finishing in the top two and confirming a home quarter-final, something which I believe is very important. It remains a quirk to this baseball loving cricket fan that the “play-offs” are one off games. In “America’s pastime” the knockout ties are best of five or best of seven series because that game, like T20 needs a series to produce a fair result.
Looking at the North Group there is every possibility that we will have a repeat of last year’s quarter-final at Trent Bridge against Notts – this time at Taunton – who remember went on to lift the trophy. It would seem scant reward for winning the group to face a team that are on their day easily the best at this format despite their inconsistent record this year.
But that is a degree of negativity I’m not prepared to entertain here. Somerset have shown themselves more than capable of overcoming whatever is thrown at them in this format.
Of course as we all know, even if we beat Glamorgan on Sunday our unbeaten run will end at Canterbury, even if we are 200-1 with 5 overs left chasing 215!
But to conclude let’s return to the theme of my pre-Surrey piece and look at the influence this result could have on the Championship run in.
Surrey have been pretty one-dimensional in the way they win. Get a big start from Roy and Finch and just keep battering. They will almost certainly qualify for the QFs and more than likely get to finals day but the Surrey management team will have drawn a second red circle around that visit to Taunton in September. The doubts will be creeping in, ever so slightly, wondering if they have peaked and knowing that Somerset are a real force and will push them all the way.
It goes without saying that there is a lot of cricket to be played between now and then. And a number of Somerset players who are not part of the T20 squad who will have crucial roles to play between now and the end of September. And here again Somerset have a crucial edge.
Marcus, Dom and Jack were all in good form for the seconds last week against a strong Hampshire Second XI. With the England selectors appearing to have put a temporary hold on our spin-twins international careers we should have both available for the championship run-in (Max Waller’s white ball exploits will probably have given him a better chance of playing test cricket if Rashid is injured!).
I can’t stress enough how much that win against Surrey meant on Friday evening. It is not just that Surrey are our rivals for this season’s title, or that they pummelled us two weeks ago in a 10-over game, it is the arrogance and sheer sense of entitlement they demonstrate whenever you hear them speak. I’m searching for a way to get my car radio to automatically re-tune whenever Alec Stewart is on air! And of course we all want to beat Gareth Batty, especially as, according to (allegedly) Tom Curran we are all a bunch of peasants!
Onwards to Canterbury then. Wouldn’t it be great to win there to round off the group? Let’s all, collectively, invoke every superstition we have next week to make it happen.
As Vin Scully, legendary Los Angeles broadcaster once said, “in the year of the improbable, the impossible has just happened”.