Sneaking through to the quarter-finals of last season’s Blast represented an improvement for Somerset after several years of declining t20 performances. The team was flawed, especially in the areas of seam bowling and overseas players, but things started to click after 2016’s bottom-placed finish.
This season, Somerset have made a good start, winning three of their first five games and sitting third in the table. All the batsmen have made contributions – for starters, Steve Davies and Peter Trego propelled the chase at home to Gloucestershire, Johann Myburgh gave us a good start against Middlesex and James Hildreth made fifties against Kent and Glamorgan.
Corey Anderson has been the real star, though. He only managed four games last season due to injury, but performed well with scores of 81, 19*, 1 and 41*. This season he’s continued where he left off, with scores of 24, 30*, 40*, 39 and 59. That is remarkable consistency and there is a case that he should bat higher in the order – I would certainly look to promote him on flat decks at least.
That leaves Tom Abell, who is not your typical t20 player, but he has shown signs of being able to play the kinds of innings that are required. Going back to the One-Day Cup, he only played twice due to injury and batted just once – but it was an innings of 40 off 25 balls, which would be ideal in a t20.
He’s batted five times in the Blast, but didn’t face a ball in game one. In game two, against Kent, he showed again that he has what it takes with 36 from 24 balls. Away to Gloucestershire he came in ahead of Roelof van der Merwe and Craig Overton with 3.1 overs to go – a questionable decision which resulted in a first-ball duck. He cannot be blamed for that. At Lord’s, he played a vital anchor innings of 28 off 26 balls, proving the perfect foil for Anderson during a match-winning partnership of 64 after Somerset were 92 for 4. He made just 10 off 12 against Glamorgan, but overall he has proven to be a useful member of our t20 side.
On the bowling side of things, van der Merwe and Max Waller are streets ahead of the rest, with five wickets apiece and economy rates of 7.08 and 6.37 respectively. The regular seam bowlers – the Overtons and Lewis Gregory – have shone at times but all have economy rates over 10. Of course, they bowl more at the death than the spinners but clearly our seam attack isn’t quite there yet.
In the game against Gloucestershire at Bristol, the spinners were criminally under-bowled while the seam bowlers were expensive, which ultimately cost us the game. Thankfully, both Waller and van der Merwe bowled their full quota of overs in the two subsequent games, and the seam attack has been bolstered by the signing of Jerome Taylor for our remaining nine t20s, plus the knockout stages if we get there.
Taylor’s signing did surprise me, though. He is 34 years old and probably past his best – not the kind of player I’d expect Andy Hurry to go for. He had a spell playing 50-over cricket for Sussex last season – despite a hat-trick, his overall record wasn’t great, with 6 wickets from 5 games at an economy rate of 6.46. He wasn’t deemed good enough to be picked up in this year’s CPL draft, hence his availability for Somerset, and his latest t20 bowling analyses for the West Indies are as follows (most recent first):
In the CPL last season, he was inconsistent but did put in some useful performances – again, here they are, most recent first:
Taylor is fast and could be effective at the death, but as with any death bowler he could go for runs. It does appear that he goes for runs often, but of course it is not wise to entirely judge him before he’s even played a game for Somerset. I assume he will initially come into the side for Jamie Overton, but once Tim Groenewald returns from injury, Somerset have a few ways of constituting their pace attack. Alternatively, he could come in for Abell, but the side would then feel unbalanced to me.
Looking ahead to tonight, we have a tough task ahead as we face a Surrey side featuring an in-form Aaron Finch at the Oval. Somerset have won just once in seven t20s against Surrey at that ground. However, after an average few weeks extending from the Surrey County Championship game at Guildford to the t20 loss to Gloucestershire at Bristol, the feel-good factor from earlier in the season seems to be back after two consecutive t20 wins, the County Championship victory over Worcestershire, the signing of two new overseas players and, most hearteningly, Lewis Gregory’s new contract. Hopefully we can keep it going tonight.