A More Positive Approach Please Somerset

Which Somerset side will Azhar Ali find when they turn up at North Marine Road tomorrow? That is the question for all Somerset fans this evening. We all have to hope that the supine, below par version of last week gets shed somewhere along the 280+ miles from Taunton to Scarborough.

Yorkshire v Somerset, County championship Division One, North Marine Road, Scarborough September 5th to 8th 2021

Azhar Ali – welcome returnee for his runs and leadership

Or will it be another cautious, take no risks have what we hold approach, similar to the last four County Championship games or will a side that Tom Abell deserves emerge to put out title aspirations back on track?

One thing has to change, whoever is responsible for the safety first, have what we hold, approach needs to accept it isn’t working and release the shackles allowing the players to perform with freedom and without fear. I know Somerset aren’t alone in this negative game plan, and it is a by-product of current format of the Championship, but I don’t care about the other 17 counties, I do care passionately about Somerset Cricket and I’ve not enjoyed seeing my team play with inhibited cricket.

All the words from the inner sanctum during and after the Notts game sounded right but the proof of the pudding will be the selection tomorrow morning. The portents aren’t good – no Will Smeed in the squad – so I am just preying that the coach isn’t going to go same again, with some version of “we trust these boys to put things right.”

I am sure I’m not alone in wishing that two recent departures, one who will be a prominent member of the opposition tomorrow, were still available to Tom Abell. Jamie Overton and Dom Bess would surely be automatic selections for Scarborough, especially ironic as they are the sort of characters this Somerset needs at this moment. 

Dom Bess – What would we give to have his skills and spirit on our side tomorrow?

I make no apologies for the fact that I’m feeling pretty down at the moment. The fortunes of Somerset cricket are so intertwined in my soul that a performance like we have just all witnessed makes me feel pretty rubbish. I don’t get angry, I don’t blame the players, it is just that I an so proud of my Somerset roots that I hate anything which  allows the naysayers oxygen. 

We have been so lucky for so long that it might seem churlish. My Dad would be reading this and reminding me that his early years watching the county coincided with the series of last placed finishes in the championship. But the problem ( and it is a nice one) is that everyone involved in the club, players, supporters and staff have set their standards high and that requires a response to the three days against Notts.

The last time Somerset were at Scarborough Tom Abell, in his first year as captain, dropped himself because he was in such a poor run of form. Somerset won that game, Abell came back into that side and, although we only narrowly avoided dropping into division 2, the upward curve that led to three years challenging for honours had begun.

We need the turnaround to be quicker and more decisive but if Tom Abell’s willpower has any influence we have every chance. The captain continues to lead in every way but some of his fellow top-order batters need to support him. The other two Toms showed encouraging signs at Taunton so if they can continue that upward trend and the more experienced trio of Hildy, Steve Davies and the returning Azhar Ali can make significant contributions across the two innings we have a chance.

But the truth is that all the runs in the world won’t be enough unless the seamers step up dramatically. Can they do it? Unless they can we can once again, “wait until next year”.