Somerset head into their third game in the LV=CC County Championship campaign in good spirits following two very credible draws in their first two games against last season’s top 2 in the table – Yorkshire and reigning champions Durham. But its north east to south east now for Marcus Trescothick’s side with a tricky looking away game against the impressive league leaders Sussex at the Hove starting on Sunday 27th April.
Sussex have won 2-in-2 so far in emphatic style and have accumulated 43 points in the process leading second placed Yorkshire by 9 points. They can boast the highest run scorer this season (Ed Joyce with 280 runs in 3 innings at an average 140) and second highest wicket taker (Steve Magoffin with 14 wickets, bettered only by Steven Finn’s 15).
The seaside club did not play last weekend so will be refreshed and raring to go and boosted by their England man, Chris Jordan, signing a new three-year deal.
In their last game Sussex thrashed Warwickshire in Birmingham despite a brilliant 189 from Ian Bell. First Sussex blew the midlanders away for only 87 runs with Magoffin, Jordan and former Gloucestershire man Lewis all taking 3 wickets each. Sussex then hit 229 with Joyce dominating with a fine 117. Warwickshire hit back with 471 thanks to Bell’s heroics and contributions from Clarke (79) and Patel (74). But Joyce had the final say hitting a magnificent 151 not out to lead the south coast club to 333 for 3 and a win by 7 wickets.
In their opening game Middlesex were beaten by an innings and 127 runs in a very one-sided game. The Londoners batted first and were dismissed for 105 before England keeper Matt Prior lead Sussex to 386 by striking 125. Middlesex were then bowled out a second time in the game for 154. Magoffin took 8 wickets in the match and Lewis 6 to take the bowling honours.
Man to watch:
Steve Magoffin – the Aussie has taken at least 3 wickets in each innings he has bowled this year including a fivefer against Middlesex. He likes bowling against Somerset and a few of our players will be watching him closely after his heroics at Horsham last season (see below). Somerset’s batters will have to put that nightmare behind them and get on with it but he is a very tidy, dangerous bowler on his day.
The two draws against strong opponents has pleased Director of Cricket Dave Nosworthy. Talking to the Western Daily Press he said: “We were really intent on getting a decent start to the season. In the last few seasons, we have been playing catch-up in the competition, and with us facing two of the stronger teams in our opening two games this season, we knew it would be a tough start.
“But we have set ourselves up well, and put ourselves in a solid position, with draws in each of our opening two matches. Now we need to kick on for the rest of the season.”
What is encouraging is we are scoring runs again and building partnerships after many of last season’s impotent performances. Having scored 553 in the only innings versus the Tykes the cider men scored 431 in total before the second innings was stopped and the players shook hands on a draw. And at Durham with the second innings languishing at 92 for 4 it was great to see Compo and Kiessy dig in and bat so well putting on an undefeated 154. Such resilience was rarely evident in 2013.
There are some injury concerns going into the game. Craig Overton looks “unlikely” to feature at Hove (according to Nos) but Alfonso Thomas may return after missing out in Chester-le-Street. Nos said: “Alfonso will hopefully be OK. We will see how he recovers from a couple of bowling sessions.” Craig Meschede bruised a rib in Durham but should be fit and Compo will play despite playing through the pain barrier to score his brilliant ton against the champs, his 4th against Durham. We may play a spinner at Hove having relied on Myburgh’s part-time spin in the early games. If so expect George Dockrell to play, probably at the expense of Chris Jones who will be a tad unlucky to be left out.
Tres goes into the game in poor form but he will play. Form is temporary and class is permanent and it would be a brave man who wrote Marcus off so let’s hope he can start putting bowlers to the sword and kick start his season. We also need Compo to continue his fine form and another big score will surely alert the England selectors.
Whatever happens Somerset do not want to repeat the corresponding fixture of 2013 when defeat came inside two days at Horsham! Batting first we were blown away for a paltry 76 with Magoffin finishing with excellent figures of 11-4-20-8. The home team then hit a competitive 300 with once Somerset target Rory Hamilton-Brown top scoring with 77. We at least passed the 100 mark second time around but only to 108 with Magoffin again the main tormentor with figures of 12.3-5-11-4 to finish with amazing match figures of 12 wickets for 31 runs. Sussex the winners by an innings and 116 runs.