With the 2015 season now over and soon to be a distant memory the focus will be placed on the players Somerset may sign for 2016.
Director of Cricket Matt Maynard will no doubt have his plans in place having released four players – the veteran Alfonso Thomas, young spinner George Dockrell, paceman Adam Dibble and wicket-keeper/batsman James Regan. Additionally Tom Cooper, who played for the county in 2015 as a Kolpak player, will not be available next season (and possibly wouldn’t have been invited even if his schedule allowed it) and Luke Ronchi, who was the overseas player that finished the season after the disappointing showing of Abdur Rehman earlier in the year, will return to international duty for New Zealand.
Roleof van der Merwe has already been added to the squad and it remains to be seen whether Craig Meschede returns to Taunton after a season on loan at Glamorgan. With some obvious gaps left we look at five players who Somerset may be looking at to supplement the playing options for the new season.
- Mark Footitt (Derbyshire)
Maynard has already publicly stated the club will be seeking a left-arm pace bowler to balance their pace attack and reportedly made a move to sign Northamptonshire’s David Willey for next season. The England One Day player eventually signed for Yorkshire.
If Maynard wants a fast leftie then Footitt fits the bill perfectly. The Derbyshire fast bowler is an all-out wicket taker grabbing 76 LV= Championship wickets in 2015 at 23.63 including five fivefer’s and a best of 7 for 71 in a game against Leicestershire where he claimed his first ever ten wicket haul.
This followed his stand out season in 2014 when he took 84 first-class wickets, 82 of them in the Second Division of the LV= CC for Derby at a miserly average of 19.19.
But he is proven in the top flight of the Championship too. In Derbyshire’s solitary season in Division One in 2013 Footitt took 42 wickets despite playing in a team that was ultimately relegated. It proved to his breakthrough season having failed to shine in a four-year career with Nottinghamshire.
He has been called up by England as a replacement for James Anderson for the Fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge – ironically ahead of Willey – but only carried the drinks. He bowls faster than Willey and in the right conditions will swing the ball at genuine pace.
Possibility: 4½ out of 5
The player will be 30 years-old in November and has plenty of experience to match the international ambitions that he will struggle to fulfil while playing in Division Two of the Championship. A move to the top flight will offer the player the chance to prove his worth against the best in the country. Somerset would be wise to sign a left-arm pace bowler as you only have to look at Australia and the effect Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc have in games. Footitt can reach the same sort of pace as that pair, regularly touching 90mph on the speedometer.
- Ben Foakes (Surrey)
Maynard needs to sort out the wicket-keeper situation at Somerset with five keeping wicket for the club in 2015. The county famously lost Jos Buttler’s services after the 2013 season and Craig Kieswetter’s prematurely retired from the game midway through 2015. Maynard initially showed faith in Alex Barrow and James Regan for 2015 but neither player appeared to stand up to the plate so skipper Marcus Trescothick and Matthew Bates also kept while Kiwi Luke Ronchi joined up for the final four games.
Ben Foakes was first seen as an Essex player when he made his debut against the touring Sri Lankans in 2011. He has been described in the past as the new Alastair Cook. He left his home county to join Surrey for the 2014 season frustrated at the lack of first team cricket with James Foster and Adam Wheater ahead of him in the pecking order. Wheater later left for Hampshire and Foakes shares the keeping duties with Steve Davies and Gary Wilson at the Oval.
He has the abilities that Maynard desires in a keeper; a genuinely capable gloveman (he claimed 23 victims in 2015) and one that can bat. He hit 617 runs in 12 completed innings for Surrey last season at a commendable average of 51.42. This included two centuries (both against Gloucestershire) and two fifties with a top score of 140.
Possibility: 3½ out of 5
The tricky bit is he is under contract at Surrey having served two years as part of a three-year deal. The prospect of being number one at Taunton maybe tempting to the 22 year-old though and, with Surrey having sufficient keeping cover in the club, may allow him to move on. He would be a welcome addition to Somerset if that proved to be the case.
- Chris Rogers (Middlesex and Australia, overseas player)
Chris Rogers is one of county cricket’s success stories. Here is a player who averaged over 50 in Australian domestic cricket but would first get the chance to play for his country aged 30 in 2008 against India at the WACA. This looked likely to be his only appearance for Australia as he was not considered for the next Test. He came to England and played for Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire before moving to Middlesex in 2011 and it was at Lords that he made his name, reclaiming his international place five years after the last appearance when he was called up for the 2013 Ashes. His career now boasts 25 Tests and five centuries (four against England) but he called time on international cricket this summer during the Ashes.
It is rumoured talks have already taken place between Somerset and Rogers with the added possibility that he will captain the club in 2016. Somerset need a quality top order batter and Rogers fits the bill. At 38 it would be a short-term option but the cider county needs someone able to score runs high in the order right now.
He is not new to the west country having played club cricket for North Devon in 1996 and Exeter in 2002.
Possibility: 4 out of 5
It all remains to be seen whether Middlesex take up the first option on Rogers or whether they plump for fellow Aussie Adam Voges. If he comes to Somerset he is likely to bat at number 3 with Trescothick and Tom Abell the established opening pair. He will bring much stability to the batting line-up if that happens.
- Sam Northeast (Kent)
On any normal day the Taunton faithful would have been cooing wildly about Sam Northeast’s innings in a T20 fixture between Somerset and Kent on the last day of last May for many years to come. His 114, that included 16×4’s and 2×6’s, was quite brilliant and laden with clean hitting as the 25 year-old led his home county to victory by 3 runs. But his brilliance was overshadowed by the home debut of Chris Gayle who bludgeoned 151 not out in a losing cause for Somerset.
The mistake some make with Northeast is to think he is a capable one-day player only. In 2015 he hit 1,168 Championship runs for Kent at an average of 46.72 with a top score of 139 against eventually promoted Lancashire. It was his solo century but supplemented by nine 50’s during the summer to show more than a modicum of consistency.
He would, of course, excel in limited overs cricket and may relish the chance to ply his trade at batting friendly Taunton as he endeavours to grab the attention of the England selector’s. He would certainly prove popular with the Somerset supporters.
Possibility: 1 out of 5
This is a long shot. Kent would be hard-pressed to release one of their finer young players and one that has been touted as a future skipper by former captain’s David Fulton and Darren Stevens. It certainly wouldn’t be popular with the club’s fans at a time when the cash-strapped club seem to making headway in one day cricket. But with the county languishing above only Derbyshire and Leicestershire in Division Two of the Championship, and a return to the top flight looking a distant dream, an offer from Somerset may be tempting to the player and this is the sort of bright, young talent with leadership abilities that Somerset should be trying to sign.
- Nick Browne (Essex)
His club captain at Essex, James Foster, has stated publicly his disappointment that Browne has yet to be recognised by England at any level. His 1,157 runs in 2015 at an average of 42.85 certainly encapsulates Foster’s claims following a season where the 24 year-old has whacked five centuries and three fifties with a top score and career best of 151 not out against Leicestershire in September.
He is the first Essex player to pass 1,000 runs since Ravi Bopara in 2008.
Foster said: “He is a serious player, Browney, and I was actually a little bit disappointed that he hasn’t had any England recognition.
“Not necessarily with the Lions or full England tour, but you never know he might be in one of these England batting camps.
“He has a great temperament and is a seriously good guy with a great work ethic.”
Possibility: 2 out of 5
Another long shot but you never know. Much would depend on whether Somerset sign Rogers and any international ambitions the left-handed opener may have to tempt him away from Essex. He would have to drop down the order at Taunton to number 3 should Somerset opt not to sign Rogers. But if they do it is unlikely Browne would want to bat at 5 or 6 in the order.
The above are just suggestions so do you agree that Somerset should target the above players? Offer your views on Twitter using the #SCCC2016 hashtag and offer any other players names that you think Somerset should sign to improve the squad.