Somerset face the daunting prospect of breaking Surrey’s 9-game winning streak at Taunton tomorrow when the champions come to town. A prospect made all the more difficult by Somerset’s downturn in form since the turn of the month which has seen not only the chances of that elusive first title be extinguished but also their scintillating T20 form evaporate in a very disappointing semi-final display at Edgbaston.
I had hoped that we could have stayed in contact with the leaders by the time this game came around to make it a virtual winner takes all contest. But that was not to be. A tie and a defeat, both inside two days have handed the title to Surrey who will travel to Taunton confident they can extend their winning run to 10 championship games.
In recent years Somerset have had superb Septembers whether in 2016 when they took the title race to the last session of the last day of the season and last year when they needed a near flawless month to avoid relegation.
Now, not only do we need to reverse the result from Guildford in June when one bad session resulted in an innings defeat, but we need to arrest this alarming slide which must have eroded confidence both individually and collectively inside the dressing room.
But make no mistake, the significance of this game goes beyond ensuring Somerset cement their second place and restore some pride. It provides an opportunity to make a statement ahead of next season. A win for Somerset this week would be a huge positive both in terms of demonstrating the character we know this side possesses but it will also show Surrey we will be a very real threat next year.
I wrote in yesterday’s first part preview that the controversy swirling around the Taunton pitch needed some off-field leadership. The recent playing performances indicate similar leadership is needed on the pitch. In Tom Abell we have, I believe, one of the best leaders in county cricket who is demonstrating maturity beyond his years. But Tom will need all his powers and the support of the likes of Marcus Trescothick and Azhar Ali to produce the necessary performance.
As most of you know already I am a big fan of both Overton twins and was incredibly disappointed to see Jamie go round the park with such devastating effect on Saturday. How he is able to bounce back will be a big factor as will Lewis Gregory’s mindset post Birmingham. But we are incredibly fortunate to have Craig and Jack Leach, neither of who were involved on Saturday to come back in for the 4-day game. Both are vital parts of our bowling attack and will need to be at their best.
I hope Jason Kerr and Andy Hurry can use the quick turnaround to our advantage and make this an opportunity to get the last couple of weeks out of our system. Their leadership has never been so needed as it is now.
Surrey are a formidable side and it will be good to see Somerset up against them. I for one am looking forward to seeing Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Morne Morkel and Ben Foakes in person.
Wouldn’t it be fitting to end our home season with a win for the peasants!