Now Play Nicely Boys

You can only imagine what life was like in the Overton household when Craig and Jamie were growing up. I suspect competitive doesn't even come close! Well, selection permitting, tomorrow we all get to see those back garden games played out in front of us. What a shame there is no crowd allowed. Can you imagine the atmosphere thre would have been?

Somerset v Surrey, County Championship Group 2, May 13th to 16th 2021, Preview

The featured image was taken at the end of the Notts game in 2016. The last game of a season which we all hoped would see us finally lift that elusive, coveted trophy. Jamie (injured at the time) joined Craig and departing S&C guru Darren Veness on the lap of the County Ground at the end of the day. Ironic that two of the three pictured now face us tomorrow as Surrey visit the Cooper Associates County Ground.

This is one of those games which we all looked for when the fixtures were announced. The prospect of Craig and Jamie coming face to face for the first time in competitive cricket is both sad – we all wanted Jamie to stay where he belongs, and exciting. But this was also a game which, before a ball was bowled this season looked to me like one of the most important in the group.

Surrey, the English cricketing equivalent of Real Madrid, big ground, huge financial clout and a massive squad full of “Galacticos” were the team I expected to dominate this Group with little old Somerset, points deduction and all, fighting for second place.

But that is not how it has turned out so far. Apart from a demolition of Hampshire two weeks ago Surrey have been well off the pace. That solitary win and two draws, both against Leicestershire leaves them in fourth place in the group, 23 points behind Somerset in second.

This though is a Surrey side which is still very capable with match winners in every department. Trying to predict which eleven will take the field for the visitors’ tomorrow is way beyond my capabilities. I did think about looking at the Surrey website and some of their forums but decided not to change my habits when doing previews. From what I recall Surrey CCC don’t even have a website it is something, which says it all.

The two teams are culturally so far apart and don’t forget we are the forelock-tugging “peasants” (Thank you again Mr T Curran). The two teams Surrey field against us in this group are also likely to be equally far apart once test calls take effect. The possible loss of Craig and Jack for us will be far outweighed by Surrey’s England call-ups.

The context of this game and the group are what we need to focus on. With Gloucestershire having an off-week a win for Somerset would put them top of the group, at least temporarily, while defeat for Surrey would make their task of getting into Division 1 reliant on other results going their way as well as a big turn-around in form. The reverse result would open up the group significantly, especially if Middlesex beat Hampshire at Lord’s.

My sense is that Somerset have still not reached their potential this season, although they were close at The Ageas Bowl, but must avoid another below par Taunton performance akin to the Gloucestershire game. The bigger question is which Surrey show up, they will know that their performances against Leicestershire twice let alone the defeats to Gloucestershire and Middlesex will not be good enough against Tom Abell’s men. It’s an enticing prospect.

Weather though may again be a factor, depending on which weather app you use we could lose as much as a day and a half over the next four, so I am going to go with my same thought as last week and make the draw favourite. All the while hoping that the outcome is the same for Somerset as at Southampton.

Having all agreed on this week’s Somerset Podcast that that Somerset would go into this game unchanged the news from Jason Kerr earlier today that both Steve Davies and Jack Leach will not play turns that on its head. The former for a minor operation which should not prevent him from playing at Bristol next week, the latter merely rested, in Kerr’s words, “to give Leachy a break. We feel that it’s the right time to rest him because he’s coming off the back of an incredibly busy winter and he has a lot of cricket ahead of him with the possibility of going back into a bio-secure bubble environment this summer.” One wonders if there have been some discussions with the ECB around both Craig and Jack’s availability and this is the result – or maybe I am adding 2 and 2 and getting 17?

Whatever, Tom Banton will keep and bat in the middle order. Whether that is 5, 6 or 7 remains to be seen but let’s hope the change in role allows his huge latent talent with the bat to flourish. While either de Lange or van der Merwe will replace Leach. I’m guessing Marchant is the most likely call on a pitch that will offer little assistance to spin.

Tom Banton, quick recall to replace Steve Davies with the gloves

Davies will no doubt be doubly disappointed to miss this game. He has been in great form with bat and gloves and would have been keen to play against his former club. Which brings us back to Jamie and Craig. 

Jamie Overton – the thought that he will not play tomorrow is too horrible to contemplate

Ignoring the horrible possibility of the younger twin being be omitted, the return of the much-missed half of our North Devonian powerhouse to Taunton to face his old club and his twin promises to be box office, a contest the whole County Championship will want to watch. 

Craig Overton – his contests with the Surrey batting will be crucial but won’t be the main focus of attention this week

Finally spare a thought for Helen and Mark Overton. I cannot begin to guess the range of emotions the proud parents will be going through over the next four days. A penny for their thoughts.