County Championship Division One, Somerset v Essex, The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, April 13th to 16th 2022
It’s a tricky business this writing and talking about Somerset cricket. It could be tricky enough back in the days when I’d call my Dad after a day’s play but at the moment that seems like a breeze.
I’ve been accused over the last week of over-reacting, of looking through maroon and black tinted spectacles and everything in between. While there were some mitigating factors for the defeat at The Rose Bowl I can’t get away from the collapse that began just after noon on Saturday and resulted in the game being done and dusted within a little over two hours.
What we have seen from Tom Abell’s side since the end of last August is not the real Somerset County Cricket Club, either in terms of fight or delivery of their skills. I could spend several hundred words on my thoughts as to the reasons for what we are seeing but the truth is we will never know what is going on inside the home dressing room of the Cooper Associates County Ground or in the minds of the players and squad.
Jason Kerr, quoted on the club’s website preview of the game said just what we’d expect from him.
“We need to show some real character and fight.”
The guys … have taken responsibility, taken a long hard look at themselves and looked at how they can improve ahead of the next game.”
Kerr then concludes, interestingly, “Collectively it’s really important that we continue to invest in how we’ve practised because change takes time”.
I’m sure there are a whole load of learnings in there as well!
I hope these aren’t just words, that we see real character and fight, and that there is an improvement following a long hard look at themselves over the last five games not just last week.
Essex, who we face tomorrow, played out a dull draw last week at Chelmsford against Kent. Two first innings of over 500, lasting 159 and 187 overs respectively does not make a case for riveting watching but I’d give a fair bit to see Somerset bat that long over the next two days!
Essex have two interesting new names in their 2022 line up. Matt Chritchley announced his move from Derbyshire with a fluent 132 while Mark Steketee, a familiar name to anyone like me who follows the Big Bash replaces Peter Siddle in the Essex attack. My hope that Simon Harmer would still be in South Africa have been frustrated by Bangladesh’s second innings capitulation (we know all about those sadly).
For Somerset we should see a side at virtually full strength. Matt Renshaw has arrived in Taunton and will take his place at the top of the order. Whether he will, as many expect, open or as I’d prefer to see him bat at 4 remains to be seen. Of the 13 man squad named this afternoon I’d suspect Kasey Aldridge and either Lewis Goldsworthy or Ben Green to miss out.
Josh Davey, who bowled again yesterday and for today for the 2nds, misses this one as his recovery continues and Roelof steps aside for Jack Leach. With George Bartlett, Will Smeed and James Rew all making runs against Surrey 2nds this week and Tom Banton not too far away you have to hope that Kerr will be able to find a settled batting order capable of churning out runs fairly soon.
If the surfaces prepared for pre-season are anything to go on we can expect something that is going to assist the batsmen. Overton, Siddle (who will I am sure be relishing facing his old mates) and Gregory will have their work cut out against Sir Alistair and his colleagues but the outcome of the game may well depend on how close Somerset can get to (or, dare I dream ahead of) the visitors’ first innings total.
The only positive last week was that there were no winners in Division One so we have not lost too much ground on our rivals. But we cannot afford to come out on the wrong end of the result this week if we are to retain serious ambitions of being competitive in this division this year.
Strap yourselves in everyone. The Somerset cricket roller coaster is about to set off again.