Somerset plan for the future as Thomas moves aside for youth

Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard
Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard is backing the young players who have done so well for Somerset this year as the club enters a month of one-day competition. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

Somerset today announced major changes to their limited overs side ahead of the final two games of the T20 campaign and the start of the Royal London One Day Cup competition on Sunday. The Incider’s Managing Editor Jeremy Blackmore spoke this evening to Director of Cricket Matt Maynard who explained more.

Somerset have started planning for the future by backing youth for this summer’s 50-over campaign, with white ball skipper Alfonso Thomas moving aside.

Jim Allenby takes over as captain, starting with Somerset’s remaining two NatWest T20 Blast matches against Hampshire and Middlesex this week, which could see Jack Leach, Tom Abell and new signing Adam Hose all make their 20-over debuts. All three are named in an initial 13-man squad announced today.

Jim Allenby
Jim Allenby takes over as Somerset’s new one-day captain, starting with tomorrow night’s match against Hampshire at Southampton. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

Director of Cricket Matt Maynard told The Incider this evening that the remaining Blast games were an “opportune time to have a look and give some exposure and experience to the young players who’ve done so well for us this year”.

But the changes extend beyond this week’s games into the Royal London One Day Cup campaign which starts with a home match against Derbyshire on Sunday. Allenby is set to captain a young bowling attack, comprising three fast bowlers in Craig and Jamie Overton and Lewis Gregory who have all received England call-ups this summer.

Tom Abell will open and be given the opportunity to anchor the innings in the same fashion as he has done so successfully in the County Championship.

The changes also mean no place for overseas signing Abdur Rehman or Marcus Trescothick, who will act as assistant coach to Maynard during the competition.

Maynard insisted that while the club was always keen to integrate youth into its squad for the 50-over game, there was a balance to be struck: “We want to do very well in the Royal London One-Day Cup. So, it’s not just a case of throwing youngsters in for the sake of it, getting guys off our Academy and just giving them a go. You’ve still got to earn the right to play for the first team.

Jack Leach in action during this week's game with Nottinghamshire. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.
Jack Leach is set to make his T20 debut against Hampshire and feature heavily in the Royal London One-Day Cup. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

“I believe players like Adam Hose have done that, the weight of runs he’s scored with the Seconds, as has Jack Leach. Obviously Tom Abell has played brilliantly for us, especially in the past two months in the Championship, and fully deserves his opportunity in the one-day form. It leaves us with good cover.”

Maynard said that Leach had been in the forefront of the club’s planning at the start of the season before he suffered a severe head injury.

“He’s back playing really well now. Against Notts Seconds he scored a century and bowled them out which is what you want from a spinner and it seems the right time to bring him in. He performed really well in the one-day cup last year and we’re hoping he’ll do the same again, so he’s in the squad and he’s playing in the T20s and the same with Tom Abell, the Overton boys and Lewis Gregory.

“Getting those youngsters involved should give us plenty of energy in the field. They’re fearless cricketers, I love their attitude. They just go out and play, which is exactly what you want in the one-day format.”

Dropping Thomas, who was appointed white ball skipper at the beginning of the season but had a poor T20 tournament, had been a tough decision, said Maynard.

Alfonso Thomas is set for a return against Worcestershire tomorrow. Photo by Alexander Davidson
Alfonso Thomas stands down as one-day captain after a disappointing T20 competition to give more opportunities to Lewis Gregory and Craig and Jamie Overton. Photo by Alexander Davidson

“Alfonso’s been absolutely brilliant. He’s struggled maybe a little bit in the T20. He’s not the only one to say that; we had a poor T20 campaign, but it does give the opportunity to those younger bowlers to show what they’re capable of.

“Once that decision was made to play those young players, we had to look at the captain, which changed our thinking from the winter, so Jim [Allenby] is the obvious choice hereon in. He’s certainly got the backing of the dressing room and the senior players as well. It’s great to see how warmly he’s been welcomed into that position and hopefully we’ll have a good competition.”

Maynard added: “Craig and Jamie Overton along with Lewis Gregory all got called up for the England ODIs so we are going to give them a go. Our initial thinking last winter was that Alfonso would captain in one-day cricket but that would mean that one of those guys would miss out which doesn’t seem fair. The Overtons and Lewis, along with Tim Groenewald, will give us four bowlers who we will rotate so they will get plenty of experience and exposure.”

Maynard marked the end of Marcus Trescothick’s distinguished white ball career after 236 List A matches for Somerset (average 36.87) and 86 T20 matches (average 27.81), saying he would not play a part in the county’s 50-over campaign this summer. He had already been omitted from the latter half of the T20 group stages.

Adam Hose during his knock of 41 at the County Ground last week as Somerset Seconds beat Nottinghamshire by an innings. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.
Adam Hose is set to make his first XI debut for Somerset in the T20 against Hampshire at Southampton tomorrow night. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

“Marcus found it quite tricky switching from the red ball to the white ball in terms of tempo of his innings,” said Maynard. “He’s been a wonderful white ball player for Somerset but maybe his time has gone in that now and [he can] really focus now on the red ball.”

He praised new signing Adam Hose as “a unique brand of cricketer” who had scored centuries in all three formats of the game this year.

“We are a little short on batting which I think has been obvious in recent weeks and this is a great opportunity. He’s got a game which probably is slightly more suited to the T20/one-day format now, but he’s also shown that he can bat longer innings as well. So, he’s fully deserved his contract and the opportunity to work with a professional staff for the remainder of this summer, through the winter and obviously next year and we’ll be hoping at some stage to extend that contract offer.”

Michael Bates
Michael Bates will start as first choice keeper in white ball cricket in the Royal London Cup. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

Hose is excited about being called in to the squad days after signing his first county contract: “It is fantastic to be included in the squad,” he said. “To make my Somerset debut against Hampshire, where I played a lot of my cricket would be brilliant. My parents will be coming along to watch so I will be giving it my best!”

Former Hampshire keeper Michael Bates will start the Royal London One Day Cup and play in this week’s two T20 games, despite his lack of runs since joining Somerset mid-season.

“He’s kept superbly for us,” said Maynard. “Obviously by his own admission, he’s been slightly short of runs, but he’s not missed a trick behind the stumps, he’s been superb behind there, tidying up throws, he hasn’t missed a catch. He’s looked very much the part.”

Two Somerset cricketers who performed well on the world stage in limited over cricket in this year’s World Cup, Josh Davey & George Dockrell, do not feature in the initial squad for this week’s two T20 games. They have been away recently as part of the Scotland and Ireland squads in the World T20 qualifiers, and Maynard admitted it was tough on associate players to make a mark domestically when they were away so much of the season. However he said they could still come into contention during the Royal London tournament.

“They’re not in the initial squad, but we have some cricket that the Second XI are playing that they could push themselves into contention in, most definitely. They’re both very good young professionals and they have got a lot of talent.”

Matt Maynard
“We can’t fear anyone in our group,” says Director of Cricket Matt Maynard. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

Somerset’s group in the Royal London One-Day Cup includes last year’s winners Durham and county champions Yorkshire, but Maynard said the club could not afford to fear any side in the tournament.

“This is the one white ball competition this year where you can build momentum,” he said. “You get off to a good start and play some good cricket and all of a sudden the confidence in the camp gets boosted.”

With the club able to concentrate solely on limited overs cricket for an entire calendar month, Maynard confirmed that all their practice would be around the white ball.

“We’ve got some plans in place obviously for the Royal London One Day Cup. We can’t fear anyone. We’ve just got to make sure we do our best, that we actually perform to our capabilities, which unfortunately we didn’t do in the T20, whereas we have done on occasions in the championship. We haven’t been consistent enough in the championship, so hopefully this is a competition that we can put those both together, put in those consistent performances and be aggressive with both bat and ball and we’ll get the results.”

Changes to the regulations in one-day cricket are welcome, says Maynard, pointing out that the previous powerplay structure had “ruined many an innings”.

“I welcome these changes. I think it’s very good for the game and very exciting that we’re the first nation to try them out domestically.”

Somerset now have a break from red ball cricket until 21 August when they entertain Worcestershire at Taunton and Maynard said the side’s progress in the one-day cup would tell whether or not the break had come at the right time.

“We obviously lost four matches on the trot in the T20 campaign, and that affects confidence which came through a little bit into our championship form. You look at Warwickshire, they’ve been winning in the T20 and they’re carrying that momentum into the longer form of the game. So I think a lot will depend a lot on how this one-day cup competition goes, how much confidence we can gain in the squad ahead of that Worcester game [in late August].”

The full squad for this week’s two T20 matches against Hampshire and Middlesex are: Tom Abell, Jim Allenby (capt), Michael Bates (wkt), Tom Cooper, Lewis Gregory, James Hildreth, Adam Hose, Jack Leach, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Peter Trego and Max Waller.