Possibly a good time to prepare for a juicy home NatWest Blast T20 quarter final. An opportunity to prepare for a run-in to a burgeoning Royal London One-Day Cup campaign perhaps. Or a shot at a top three finish in the Championship.
In reality Somerset’s T20 ambitions were extinguished long before the final game of the qualifying rounds. Their hopes of qualifying for the Royal London quarter finals dangle on a mathematical thread. And they are still not quite guaranteed to hold onto their prized Division One place in the County Championship.
It was ironic then that the final game before the break was undoubtedly Somerset’s most complete white-ball performance of the season. Their emphatic win away to Yorkshire at Scarborough offered a tantalising glimpse of a brave new future with young players like Tom Abell, Craig Overton and Josh Davey leading from the front.
Over the past week, while the game has focussed on three thrilling – and one facicial – T20 quarter finals, Somerset’s limited overs squad have had some time away from the game, taking part in Second XI fixtures and preparing for today’s (Monday 17 August) return to action against Surrey at the County Ground and tomorrow’s away trip to Leicester.
One-day skipper Jim Allenby is looking forward to getting back in the middle and giving home fans something to cheer about after a disappointing summer.
Following Friday’s training session, the one day skipper said: “The squad is well rested now and we have all had a few days away which is what was needed by everybody after a busy period. Everyone is fresh and full of energy and we can’t wait to get out there and finish the Royal London One Day competition on a high.
“We had a great win over Yorkshire at Scarborough which made the long journey really worthwhile. We had good support up there as well and we played the best we have in white ball cricket all year.”
Director of Cricket Matt Maynard rang the changes for the 50-over tournament, jettisoning the experienced Marcus Trescothick, Alfonso Thomas and Abdur Rehman and backing a side with an emphasis on youth.
It’s been a mixed campaign, to be expected with such a young squad, but it has been encouraging to witness players grasping their opportunities and stamping their mark on games.
Talking about the victory against Yorkshire, which saw Yorkshire reduced to 22-4 after eight overs, Allenby said: “We started off with our opening pair Craig Overton and Josh Davey bowling fantastically well on what was a good cricket pitch and to put a strong Yorkshire side under pressure like that was fantastic.
“It’s frustrating that we haven’t been able to play that way throughout this tournament but we have said all along that the 50 over competition was about finding out about some of our players and in that respect it has been successful.
Allenby paid tribute to Tom Abell, who hit a classy 80 in only his fifth List A match to lead Somerset to victory: “For Tom Abell to be able to finish it off and show us what we all know, that he is a class player in all formats. The situation was set up very nicely for Tom because they were bowling four day lengths on a good cricket pitch with the slips in, and he showed his technique and class.”
Abell has forged a promising opening one-day partnership with new signing Adam Hose and the pair have provided some decent platforms during the tournament so far.
Allenby revealed Somerset’s thinking behind the pairing: “Tom has been about to have a score like that the whole tournament and that’s why we have kept him in and he is only going to get better by doing it. Rather than chopping and changing we have given him and Adam Hose the chance to open up front and see how they go.
“It was pleasing to see him get that score personally, but also from our point of view to confirm what we know about him and it also gives him a nice platform for the last two games and then going into the rest of the season.”
Talking about the make-up of the side at Scarborough the one-day captain said: “It was a pretty young side as well, in fact there were only a couple of us older guys out there. However I have said all along that they may be a young squad that we are picking but it is a good squad, with fine players and everyone deserves their spot.
“I think that it is a sign of things to come with the youngsters taking more responsibility, the new ball and key positions in the batting order and then finding their ways of playing because the only way you find out is by playing.
“You don’t learn cricket, especially the one day game, in the Seconds because you get a lot of loose balls, whereas in the first team you have high quality bowlers against you and the only way to find out is to do it.”
Reflecting on the 50-over competition overall Allenby said: “The really positive thing about the Royal London Cup is that we have had a lot of guys doing things they would have done otherwise.
“There is a chance that we can qualify, but it’s more about the way we play and getting our plans in place and having two more opportunities to see a couple of guys showing what they can do.”
Looking ahead Allenby said: “I think it’s really important that we finish on a positive note going into the last Championship matches. Obviously we are in a position where a couple of wins gets us up the table and challenging for that top three or four spot, while a couple of quiet games makes it tough for us.
“It’s important that we get some momentum out of these last two white ball games going into four day cricket because that’s a really big target for the rest of the season, to finish that competition off well and if we have a good week here we can push on towards that.
“We haven’t played as well as we would have liked at Taunton this year and I’m not entirely sure why but I think we are still trying to find our best way of playing here regarding tactics and batting and bowling orders.”
The captain added: “It is important that we finish off well because we have had great support all year without the success we have wanted and we want to end our white ball cricket here with a victory over Surrey.”
Looking ahead to today’s match Maynard said: “It is important that we hit the ground running and perform as we did against Yorkshire, which was our most clinical performance this season in the white ball games.
“We need to go out and repeat that performance and good sides repeat their performances consistently and that’s something we need to aspire to. This is also a big game prep for our big match on Friday against Worcestershire in the LV=County Championship.”
The Somerset squad for today’s match is: Jim Allenby (capt), Tom Abell, Alex Barrow, Tom Cooper, Josh Davey, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Adam Hose, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Pete Trego and Max Waller.
Meanwhile Surrey have named a 14-man squad for their two Royal London One-Day Cup games against Somerset and Gloucestershire over the next two days.
Matthew Dunn is included having recovered from the side strain that has kept him out of first team action in recent weeks.
The Surrey squad is: Gareth Batty (capt), Zafar Ansari, James Burke, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Steven Davies, Jade Dernbach, Matthew Dunn, Ben Foakes, Aneesh Kapil, Tim Linley, Jason Roy and Gary Wilson.
Meanwhile, Marcus Trescothick says Tom Abell’s success in List A cricket has come as no surprise. After his young championship opening partner hit 80 in only his fifth RLODC match at Scarborough the former England opener said: “It doesn’t surprise me that Tom has slotted well into the 50 over game. This is really the start of his one day career and he is learning that all the time, getting runs here and there so this is the start of big things to come for him.”
“Tom’s technique is very sound and he knows what he is trying to achieve and the more that he does it and the more experience he can get the better he will become at the job.
“He doesn’t get easily flustered on good or bad pitches or against quick bowling or tough bowling, whatever it maybe he is pretty controlled and knows what he is trying to do.”
“Tom is showing all the attributes and signs at a young age to do so. It’s really a case now of stacking up runs and backing it up year on year and putting it all together.
Trescothick added: “When you look at people like Joe Root his character is fantastic and Tom is not dissimilar in how he approaches the game.”