Ironically after targeting the Royal London Cup as an opportunity to start afresh in white ball cricket after a disastrous NatWest T20 Blast campaign, Sunday’s game was reduced to a 10-over thrash, exposing Somerset’s weaknesses in the shortest form of the game.
With the weather currently set fair tomorrow, Somerset will hope to put their new 50-over strategy into action for the first time, with Tom Abell expected to make his list A debut and anchor the innings.
Indeed getting batsmen to bat deeper, was the theme of Director of Cricket Matt Maynard’s pre-match pep talk for his players, who collapsed in a frenetic rush of miscues and top edges on Sunday as the run rate grew higher and higher among the showers. They will need to put that experience and mindset behind them quickly and concentrate on the tactics required in a 50-over contest.
Durham, meanwhile, launched the defence of their RLODC title on Saturday when they won at Northampton by 54 runs as Paul Collingwood showed his enduring class and skill by scoring 132, his highest score in all List A cricket, in his 380th innings.
Since then Durham’s home game with Worcestershire yesterday (Monday) was abandoned without a ball bowled.
Last year’s game between these two sides in the competition saw Somerset win by five wickets. Chasing 311-7, Somerset found themselves 105-5 before an incredible, unbroken sixth wicket partnership of 209 between James Hildreth (who made an unbeaten 146) and Lewis Gregory (who ended 105 not out, his maiden century) saw the hosts to victory with 20 balls to spare.
But if recent encounters are anything to go by, Durham will feel they have bragging rights, having inflicted back-to-back defeats on Somerset in the County Championship this year.
Looking ahead to the game, Maynard said: “Durham are a very good team and won the competition last year. They had a good start with a win at Northamptonshire where Paul Collingwood did the business again for them and Phil Mustard batted well so we know they are a strong side.
“What we need to do is keep up what we have been doing in the field because we have been happy with that and although the results haven’t changed that’s more down to our batting. We need to get the batting right and hopefully in the 50 over game we will be able to do that and get the batsmen to bat deeper in our innings.”
Maynard also talked about some of the specific improvements in Sunday’s fielding performance. “When the ball was hit into the ring the guys were attacking the ball and trying to throw the stumps down,” he said. “If they make a mistake doing that then I don’t mind. I would rather that than sitting back and letting the opposition get an easy single.
“If you attack the ball and try to throw the stumps down, even if the batsman is just home he might think about it the second time and you start saving runs. If we do that collectively as a unit it can result in saving 10 or 15 runs over the course of a game and that can be the difference between winning and losing.”
Talking about the batting Maynard said: “It’s hard to gauge in a 14 over game reduced to 10 but in the 50 over game it’s about being positive and playing in your style. Some guys will go out there and bat at a strike rate of 95 whilst others will be at 120 and someone else will be 85. It’s just about having that balance, knowing those individuals and knowing what they can do. “We need to establish partnerships, even small ones of 20 and if we can get that going then hopefully we will be able to turn things around.”
Somerset will select their final line up from the following squad: Jim Allenby (capt), Tom Abell, Michael Bates, Tom Cooper, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Adam Hose, Jack Leach, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Peter Trego and Max Waller.
Meanwhile Scotland star Calum MacLeod makes a return to the Durham squad after helping his country secure their place in next year’s ICC World Twenty20, while John Hastings, who penned a new contract with the club earlier this week, is also included in a 14-man travelling party.
Hastings, whose batting proved a huge thorn in Somerset’s side during the recent County Championship match at Chester-le-Street, said: “Taunton is a tough place to go, it’s a lightning-fast outfield, small ground and they’ve got some really good players who play well to it. So we’re going to have to be at the top of our game that’s for sure, but I think we’re getting close to that.
“I don’t think we quite got it right last year and hopefully that experience, we can look back on that game and go through the vision and see where we went wrong with the ball. 315 should win you games more often than not so hopefully we can go down there and learn from what we did last year and put in a good performance.”
As well as MacLeod, Jamie Harrison has been added the squad that was due to face Worcestershire at the weekend. Paul Coughlin will also travel, but won’t feature due to injury.
Durham will select their final line up from the following squad: Mark Stoneman (capt), Usman Arshad, Scott Borthwick, Graham Clark, Paul Collingwood, Jamie Harrison, John Hastings, Keaton Jennings, Calum MacLeod, Gordon Muchall, Phil Mustard (wkt), Graham Onions, Ryan Pringle, Michael Richardson and Chris Rushworth.