I plan to write an occasional column over the winter sharing my thoughts on the news emanating from Taunton. I had initially thought October would be a quiet month in this regard but we already have some significant and very positive news to mull over.
Is it really already 2 weeks since we were all sitting at the Cooper Associates County Ground watch the interminable and indeterminate inspections by Messrs Wharf and Bailey? The last game of the season already seems a distant memory, a feeling accentuated by the onset of autumnal weather and the continued closing in of the evenings.
There have been a host of announcements since we all watched Essex lift the championship trophy culminating in today’s announcement of Jason Kerr committing himself to at least another two years with Somerset.
Kerr’s decision is good news for all concerned. He will, I am sure been secretly harbouring hopes of an offer from one of the 8 new Hundred franchises but his comments immediately after the conclusion of the Essex game left no one in any doubt that he was committed heart and soul to the county for at least next year.
Kerr has his detractors, unfairly in my opinion as there are few better than him on the county circuit and crucially he seems to have a very good working relationship with Andy Hurry and Tom Abell. His greatest weakness is that when you put him in front of a microphone he has a tendency to flick into coach platitude speak which leaves you wondering why journos seek him out at times. But there are a lot worse faults a coach could have and I have no doubt that in the privacy of the dressing room Kerr is a completely different person.
Continuity at the top is always important but for Somerset at present especially so. The post-Cornish silence continues to deafen. Having the two most senior members of the coaching team in place for the longer term is very reassuring to all Somerset fans.
Tom Banton is, as we expected much in demand. He has just been announced as one of Brisbane Heat’s overseas players for BBL09 a move that I welcome in terms of Tom’s development. It is a measure of how fast his stock has risen over the summer that he is in such demand and whether you are for or against the 16.4 (much more on that subject coming!) it is remarkable that he has already been signed up as a “local icon” (I’m only reporting I don’t make this up so don’t blame me) for the Cardiff franchise. Even more remarkable when you consider that is something neither Jonny Bairstow or Joe Root, both world cup winners in July, accomplished.
Banton has also been busy picking up both the PCA and CWC Young Cricketer of the Year awards since the end of the season. It is a real fact that we will see less of Banton for Somerset next year, especially if he is a success in the BBL as an IPL call would almost certainly follow. I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing Tom every success over the winter and to reassure him that if he hits a bad patch everyone from Somerset has his back.
The need to secure top order batting that arises as a result of Banton’s other commitments allied to the retirement of Marcus and the doubts over Azhar Ali for 2020 mean that the signing of Eddie Byrom, who was rumoured to be heading to Glamorgan, is a big plus. 2020 could well be a break-out season for the young opener who can count himself unlucky not to have got the nod for the last three games in the championship. He could hardly have done worse that Murali Vijay! Byrom should be told he is going to open all season in the championship and allowed to find his position in the Blast as well. He should also be encouraged to be a little more expansive in red ball cricket as his performances to date indicate someone who is lacking confidence. Eddie is one of those players who may actually benefit from the changed structure next season.
The options to strengthen the top order are interesting. Haseeb Hameed’s name has been mentioned regularly since Paul Allott jettisoned him from Lancashire in late summer. He undoubtedly has talent and application but from what I hear he needs an environment far away from influence of his family and the cricketing community in Bolton. Signing him would be a gamble and not one to rely on to provide a solution but the upside is pretty exciting.
I’ve made no secret of my desire to see Matt Renshaw return. There will be a plethora of Aussies in county cricket next year due to their minimal touring commitments. Renshaw fitted right in while he was at Taunton in early 2018 and has a lot to prove, a good season in England would put him in a strong position to fight for a top order spot for the Aussies in the 2020/21 winter.
Elsewhere James Bracey’s promotion with Gloucestershire probably kills that move for a while, especially with Steven Davies signing for another two years but make no mistake Bracey is a big talent and is someone we should keep tabs on.
Tom Lammonby is another who has opportunities opening up in front of him. While he did not set the world alight in 2019 the fact that he played the majority of the Blast schedule and did not look out of place gives me hope that 2020 could see him develop significantly. The option of a left-armer in the bowling attack in all formats is not to be underestimated.
And finally Dom Bess. The news that Charlie Taylor had for us in the most recent cricket show, that Bess is committed to Somerset for the foreseeable future, was for me absolutely crucial. I make no bones about my admiration for Dom and my belief that he can go to the very top. I also believe that he is someone who could and should set his sights on batting two or three places higher in the order. With Jack Leach likely to be away on England duty 2020 is also a year of opportunity for Dom. He will I believe be pivotal to Somerset’s success next year.
With Lewis Goldsworthy, Sam Young and Kasey Aldridge named in the latest England U-19 the talent conveyor belt continues to roll.