Somerset v Derbyshire preview: Somerset’s ‘fearless youth’ aim to return to winning ways

RLODC DerbySomerset aim to make a fresh start in white ball cricket tomorrow (Sunday 26 July) with the start of their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign.

With new one-day skipper Jim Allenby in charge, Somerset host the Derbyshire Falcons at the County Ground in Taunton, the first of eight group games in the 50-over competition this season.

Looking ahead to the game Allenby said: “The 50 over game is a format that I enjoy playing. It rewards bowlers who put the ball in good areas and it rewards batsmen who get in and try to get hundreds. I think it is set up well for the side that we are going to have because we’ve got some batsmen who can bat for long periods while being aggressive. We also have bowlers who are wicket takers and that’s the most important thing in one-day cricket.

Jim Allenby struck
Somerset’s new one-day captain Jim Allenby said he had never captained a side with so much talent. Photograph by Steve Jennings.

“We will have at least three lads who are going to hit the wicket hard and get genuine four-day type dismissals for a lot of the game. The 50-over game does reward good cricket and is less reliant on tosses or one side having a good day. It is more reliant on having a whole team effort and getting the tactics right, so I am a big fan of it.”

Talking about the side that he will be leading on Sunday the new captain said: “I have never captained a side with so much talent as this, so it’s up to me to try and get these guys playing in a way that we want them playing. It’s up to us to get the tactics right so these boys can go out, play and enjoy it.”

Meanwhile Director of Cricket Matt Maynard told ecb.co.uk that he is hoping that the status of underdogs will serve Somerset well during the competition.

“We’ve got one opportunity left to win silverware and it’s important that we play well in the Royal London One-Day Cup,” Maynard said. “It’s going to be tough in the Championship that’s for sure – Yorkshire are runaway leaders again – and the T20s have obviously gone, so that leaves us with one.

“It’s the one competition this year where if you can really get on a good roll and develop some momentum, you’ve got a good chance of going all the way. That’s obviously key to getting a good start. We’ve got our first (three) matches at home and we want to put on a good show for the Taunton faithful.

Director of Cricket Matt Maynard. Photograph by Alexander Davidson
Director of Cricket Matt Maynard. Photograph by Alexander Davidson

“There certainly won’t be any pressure from me or my backroom staff on the players. You start getting into a stage where you start becoming underdogs.”

Somerset had hoped to use Friday night’s final NatWest T20 Blast match against Middlesex at Taunton as a full dress rehearsal for the 50-over competition with a new-look side with an emphasis on youth.

However heavy rain put paid to those plans and Somerset go into the Royal London Cup on the back of eight games without a win in all competitions.

“That obviously affects you doesn’t it, because you want to be winning,” Maynard admitted to ecb.co.uk. “That inspires that confidence, and gives that confidence to go out there and play a bit freer. If you’re not getting the results then you tense up a little bit as players, that’s reflected.

“We’ve got to be careful and we need to break that cycle. We’ve got a bit of a change of plan going into the one-dayers with the squads that we’ve announced.

“We’ve got a lot of fearless youth in there, and got a lot of great talent. We’re just looking to, first of all, reverse that run of matches and try and get some proper confidence back within the group.”

That emphasis on youth means the squad includes 21-year-old batsman Tom Abell, who will make his 50 over debut if, as expected, he is selected with a brief to anchor the innings, as he has so successfully in the County Championship.

The bowling attack will be led by 21-year-old twins Craig and Jamie Overton and 23-year-old Lewis Gregory with veteran Alfonso Thomas making way. Somerset will rotate their bowling attack with the more experienced Tim Gronewald also named as part of the squad. Jack Leach, 24, is expected to start as the main spinner in place of overseas signing Abdur Rehman who has disappointed in both the Championship and T20 this season. Leg spinner Max Waller, who had another excellent T20 competition is also included in the squad should Somerset play two spinners.

New signing Adam Hose, 22, who made his first team debut in the T20 game against Hampshire at Southampton on Wednesday, surprisingly misses out, although he is expected to play a part later in the competition.

Day 3 of Somerset  CCC vs Nottinghamshire CCC
Tom Abell could make his white ball debut against Derbyshire at Taunton tomorrow. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

When asked by ecb.co.uk to sum up the mood in the camp, Maynard said: “There’s always expectation isn’t there? There’s 18 counties who will expect to win this Royal London One-Day Cup and will be going in with renewed energy as you do at the start of every season.

“There’s no difference when you get a new competition starting off. Every county will be desperate to win it. Everyone will be going in with the same attitude of playing hard cricket and smart cricket and we’re no different.

“It is a tough fixture list, but I think whoever you play against, they’re tough games. If you play well in the tournament, make a good start, you can beat anyone on the day.

“It takes one or two players to have exceptional days and the rest to perform well and you can beat anyone in the competition. That’s certainly going to be what we’re looking to achieve.”

After tomorrow’s match with Derbyshire, Somerset’s play last year’s winners Durham at Taunton on Wednesday before entertaining Worcestershire, also at the County Ground, on Friday.

The teams that finish in the top four in each group will qualify for the quarter finals, following which there will be semi-finals with the showcase Lord’s final on Saturday September 19.

Somerset will name their final line up from the following squad: Jim Allenby (capt), Tom Abell, Michael Bates, Tom Cooper, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Peter Trego and Max Waller.

Meanwhile Derbyshire have named a 12-man squad for tomorrow’s fixture. The visitors reached the quarter finals of the competition last season and have aspirations of at least matching that in 2015.

DerbyshireChesney Hughes is set to feature in a 50-over game for the first time since 2013 while Cricket Derbyshire Academy, in partnership with the University of Derby graduates Greg Cork and Matt Critchley are in contention to make their List-A debuts for the county.

All-rounder Alex Hughes features after recently hitting his maiden first-class century, but Wayne White misses out through injury.

Derbyshire elite cricket performance director Graeme Welch said: “I think we played really well in the Royal London One-Day Cup last year and it is imperative to get off to a good start like we did last year.

“We haven’t played Somerset for a few years so it is a little bit of an unknown, but it is usually a good pitch down there and we want to start well.

“I think the slightly longer game will suit us, there is more chance for people to ease their way into the game in 50-over cricket. I like the way we played last year and I like the concept of the competition.

“You have to think on your feet in this format, we have a blueprint that we are trying to put into place. Hopefully we can follow on from last year, win a few games and get to the next stage of the competition.”

The full squad is: Wes Durston, Billy Godleman, Hamish Rutherford, Chesney Hughes, Wayne Madsen, Alex Hughes, Shiv Thakor, Tom Poynton, Matt Critchley, Greg Cork, Ben Cotton and Mark Footitt.