A Good Friday 13th

Being a superstitious type this isn’t a good day for me. One of those always glad when they are over days.

But joyfully, wonderfully, it is the first day of the cricket season. The special thing that is Championship Cricket gets underway today and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Somerset’s preparations off the field haven’t been ideal, the loss of a Chief Executive and the contracted overseas player in the month before the season starts is not good. But my initial impression of Andrew Cornish is very good and in Matt Renshaw Somerset have found a pretty much like for like replacement for the disgraced Cameron Bancroft.
Before the waves of the ball tampering fiasco in South Africa started lapping on the outfield of the County Ground, I was feeling pretty optimistic about our chances this season. Yesterday’s announcement of Renshaw, who will be available for the Championship and 50 over competitions has mostly restored that faith. The little pre-season cricket Somerset have been able to complete have added to my optimism.
Let’s be clear, this is absolutely head ruling heart (which I admit isn’t easy) for the following reasons.
The top order looks stronger than last year, Eddie Byrom seems to have taken big steps forward over the winter while Marcus looked in superb touch against Ireland. James Hildreth will be freed from his testimonial commitments of last year and Tom Abel should have adjusted to the demands of captaincy allowing him to focus more on his batting.
The bowling is also stronger, a fit-again Jamie Overton (I’ve got everything crossed he stays that way) is a huge addition. Craig’s confidence must be sky high and he will be looking to reinforce his Test ambitions by bullying Division 1 batting lineups early in the season. With Timmy G and a healed Lewis Gregory as well as the underrated Josh Davey the seam attack is as good as any in Division One. Add in the two best English spinners both coming off the back of outstanding winters and you have an attack that should be able to bowl sides out twice in any conditions.
The impact of Jason Kerr as head coach will also help the bowling attack as well as reuniting the successful off-field combination with Andy Hurry.
So where does that leave Somerset relative to the competition? I expect Surry to be strong and anticipate that one of Lancashire and Notts will be there or thereabouts. Of the rest, I think Essex could struggle and might well emulate Lancashire and Middlesex in recent years by following a Championship with relegation. Worcestershire and Hampshire would be my favourites to be down there with Essex. So that leaves Yorkshire, and even they don’t have a clue what sort of White Rose is going to flower this season.
Consistency is going to be key, provided Somerset’s batting can regularly post par or above scores they are going to be winning games with their bowling attack. Injuries and international call ups could derail us but I’m going for the following table:

  1. Somerset
  2. Surrey
  3. Yorkshire
  4. Notts
  5. Lancashire
  6. Hampshire
  7. Essex
  8. Worcestershire

But, before I get too carried away my phone notifies me of a tweet from Somerset CCC’s official account that play in the match against Oxford University has been abandoned for the day. Maybe Friday 13th is having the last laugh after all.
Thankfully Somerset don’t start until next weekend. So if the three division one games are victims of the weather we gain a game before even pulling on our whites.