April 3, 2013

County Championship, Division One

Returning Trescothick to lead Championship charge

Nicky King
Somerset's "tattooed Atlas" Peter Trego  © Getty Images
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Three months ago Somerset supporters thought Dave was a Freeview TV channel broadcasting endless repeats of Top Gear and QI. They now eagerly await the arrival of Dave at Taunton. Dave Nosworthy is the man given the role of turning Somerset's brickbat-earning perennial bridesmaids into trophy-winning, bouquet-throwing brides. The new director of cricket arrived in mid-March and he will need to hit the ground running.

At his disposal he has a squad little changed from the Somerset who in 2012 were runners-up in Division One of the County Championship, reached T20 Finals Day and narrowly missed out on qualification for the CB40 semi-finals. These were remarkable achievements in a season marred by unprecedented injuries, when at one point in May the squad was down to its last 11 fit players.

Most notable of those injured was the captain, Marcus Trescothick, who played just 17 matches across all formats, scoring 655 runs (compared to 41 matches and 2518 runs in 2011). The news is that following last summer's ankle surgery the Trescothick trotter is fully functional. Somerset need a fit Trescothick if they are to win their first County Championship this year.

The loss of Trescothick's runs last year was alleviated by Nick Compton's annus mirabilis. It is heartening to know that, in these days of academies, performance programmes and fast-tracking, sheer weight of runs or wickets in county cricket does not go unnoticed by the England selectors. Compton's success with England in India and New Zealand will make him an infrequent visitor to Taunton. Somerset must plan for his absence.

Their early season overseas signing will help. South Africa Test opener Alviro Petersen probably won't get Somerset supporters' pulses racing but, if he brings his Glamorgan form of 2011 (1069 runs in 15 matches at an average of 42.76), there will be no complaints. Whether he slots in as a direct swap for Compton at No. 3, or opens the batting with 2013 beneficiary Arul Suppiah dropping down the order, remains to be seen. Just where Petersen fits into Somerset's strong limited-overs batting line-up will be interesting, not only for the early season YB40 matches but the FLt20 as well.

James Hildreth, Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler complete Somerset's likely Championship top six. The question everyone is asking is whether Kieswetter or Buttler will wear the gloves. A compromise whereby Kieswetter keeps in the Championship and Buttler in limited-overs cricket seems an all-too-simple answer. Certainly this may suit Buttler, freeing him to concentrate his Championship efforts on improving his batting consistency to match his undoubted talent. Whether Kieswetter would feel so altruistic in relinquishing the gloves to his county colleague in the shorter formats so soon after being cast aside by England is a different matter.

The Somerset chief executive, Guy Lavender, recently sought to pour cold milk in this storm in a teacup, saying that the club's priority was the long-term success of Somerset, not England. A final, diplomatic decision will have to be made by Nosworthy, and his early performance in charge may be judged on how he handles the wishes and ambitions of two talented players along with the needs of Somerset and pressure from the ECB.

Peter Trego gave 160% in 2012. As the queue for the physio's table grew ever longer the allrounder carried the bowling attack like a tattooed Atlas. In the Championship he played 60% more matches and bowled 60% more overs than any other bowler. His reward was 50 wickets - 17 more than in his previous best season. He has earned the new ball for the start of this season. Trego will also want to improve on last season's limited-over batting returns, where he can be as destructive as any in Somerset's batting line-up.

Steve Kirby will share the new ball in the Championship. Alfonso Thomas returns for the start of the season, leaving Adam Dibble, twins Craig and Jamie Overton and Gemaal Hussain competing for one bowling spot.

The final member of the Championship line-up should be left-arm spinner George Dockrell. It is easy to forget this tall Irishman is only 20 years old. He is undertaking a part-time degree course that shouldn't affect his availability; with fewer absences due to Ireland commitments this summer, he could become the first Somerset spinner to take 50 Championship wickets in a season since Mushtaq Ahmed in 1997. It will be difficult to choose who to leave out when Abdur Rehman returns to Taunton in the late season.

Thanks to last season's injury woes there is a host of young players with plenty of first-team experience. Competition for places has never been higher. Batsman Alex Barrow, allrounders Craig Meschede and Lewis Gregory and legspinner Max Waller may find their chances come first in limited-overs matches. There is the prospect of a second overseas signing for the FLT20.

Whilst seeking the elusive first-ever County Championship title, do not expect Somerset to take their eyes off the other prizes. Recent seasons have shown them more than capable of challenging in all formats.

Likely Championship side
Trescothick (capt)
Petersen
Suppiah/Compton
Hildreth
Kieswetter (wk)
Buttler
Trego
J/C Overton
Thomas
Dockrell
Kirby

What I love Sun, cider and crowds of the best supporters in the country.

What I'd change The oft-repeated assumption that Taunton is the home of benign batting pitches. Work on the square means this is no longer the case.

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Nicky King is a Somerset supporter and member of Somerset CCC's radio commentary team. She tweets here

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Keywords: Fans

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Posted by   on (April 5, 2013, 13:00 GMT)

Think this could be a make or break season for Hildreth. he seems to have one good year, one bad year. If he has a really strong 2013, he could certainly still be in contention for England IMO. Maybe behind some of the younger guys, but even in One day cricket, i think he could still be one to watch.

Re the comments about bowlers; I find it amazing the fact that the leading Somerset wicket taker last year was your medium fast allrounder Trego. Suurely that outlines that Somerset do have a seam bowling issue? Hussain and Kirby have not performed as well as everyone hoped, the Overton brothers are not going to lead the attack yet, and the likes of Thomas and gregory are not exactly rapid or potent. They are accurate and steady.

Somerset need a few seamers that can attack and not just hold.

Posted by SDHM on (April 5, 2013, 10:43 GMT)

@Nutcutlet - if the likes of Craig Overton, Adam Dibble & Lewis Gregory come on, then all of a sudden our seam bowling stocks look hugely exciting. It's just putting a bit too much responsibility on them I feel - a couple of seasons too early. Could have used a quality player like Philander coming back (with no workload restrictions as South Africa have a very light Test schedule this year, a point which hurt us last year, as JG points out) really. I'm sure they tried (we definitely went for Harris), but as I said, we just can't compete in giving out big salaries. On the wicket keeping scenario, Buttler is far from a guaranteed Champo starter, so I'm sure Kieswetter will keep the gloves for the 4 day stuff. Buttler is definitely a natural keeper while Craig isn't, but Craig's glovework is nowhere near as bad as people seem to make out & is certainly better than Bairstow's - reckon he might be close to being considered Prior's deputy in Tests, think he'll be on the plane to the Ashes.

Posted by   on (April 5, 2013, 9:09 GMT)

Come on Somerset lets win the first ever CC title. You CAN do it!!!!!!!

Posted by JG2704 on (April 5, 2013, 9:08 GMT)

I see several comms re the bowling stocks which I fully buy but I'm not as doom and gloom as some. Obviously we need the bowlers we have to perform to the best of their ability and maybe I have my optimistic head on today but aren't these exactly the same set of bowlers who helped us finish 2nd last season? Ok we have no Philander to start the season off with but with his restricted workload we didn't get as much as I hoped for from him. I also seem to remember Kirby and Alf out for parts of the 2012 season. If Trego can continue with his bowling form - making him one of the most improved all rounders in England - we have Craig Overton coming through nicely. If he can continue his progress he could be a real surprise package this season and - without wanting to get ahead of myself which I know I'm doing - he could be thought of as a future Eng player.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (April 5, 2013, 7:37 GMT)

@SamuelH: I agree. It's difficult to see how this team challenges for the CC unless they can pack more punch in the seam-bowling department than those listed here are likely to do. Most of the time it's going to be Steve Kirby (for whom I have much admiration) & a selection of rookies, no matter how promising they may be. Alfonso is surely more of the short-format specialist & he may well be used sparingly elsewhere, at least in the campaign-planning stage. In the shorter formats (where luck is more to the fore than in the CC) I can see Somerset challenging for honours. The three Ts: Tres,Thomas & Trego could well provide the momentum for this challenge. As a neutral, I'd like to see Buttler given the gloves as often as possible in all comps. CW leaves me underwhelmed as a w/k who can put in consistent performances either behind or in front of the stumps.

Posted by   on (April 5, 2013, 2:24 GMT)

As a massive Somerset fan I just wish they had some more heavy artillery in the bowling department. Tresco on form will make things easy for the rest of the batsmen but the bowling looks thin and this is what will hold us back. Trego and Kirby have spirit and skill but if one gets an injury we're really struggling.

Posted by   on (April 4, 2013, 23:14 GMT)

I feel Somerset's success this year depends a lot on which Alviro Petersen turns up. If the one that was successful at Glamorgan and gets games for S Africa turns up then we have to be realistic contenders. If the 1 Essex got turns up then we will have to settle for mid-table in the Championship and hope 1 or 2 youngsters score consistently in the shorter formats.

Posted by JG2704 on (April 4, 2013, 17:44 GMT)

Interesting that Hussain was named as the key player in the accompanying thread but is not even in the likely starting 11 on this thread. I agree with Somerset helping out England re the Jos/Craig situation and also agree with the possible solution in this article but so long as Somerset feels it's not to their detriment. Still have reservations re AP but hopefully he'll prove me wrong. I quite like the look of the above side and with Rehman to join later in the season. If Tres can stay injury free and reproduce his 2011 form we must have a real chance Refreshing to see a woman writer and writing such a good piece too.

Anyone have any ideas about who our T20 overseas players will be? I think Rehman will be one which I'd be very happy with but who'll be the other?

Posted by Munkeymomo on (April 4, 2013, 13:22 GMT)

Great article Nicky!

@Mike: Agreed! I've had a feeling about this season for awhile. Fully fit Tres combined with the young guns and Kirbs/Fonzy! Do this!

Also, I wouldn't be shocked if they beat Australia. :p

Posted by SDHM on (April 4, 2013, 12:18 GMT)

Not enough in the seam department for me - if Kirby, Thomas or Trego go down injured it's a hell of a lot of responsibility on the likes of the Overtons, Dibble & Gregory, although all are exciting prospects. Would loved to have seen someone like Harris or Brooks come in, although there's no way we can compete with the likes of Middlesex & Yorkshire on the salary front, and that stereotypical view of Taunton you mention in the article possibly puts some bowlers off too. With Dockrell & Rehman however we should come into our own in the second half of the season if we actually see the sun! Surely, with the problems England are now beginning to have at no.6, a good start to the season for Hildreth may finally see him in the frame too, although with Compton now likely to be away for most of it perhaps that wouldn't be the best thing!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicky King
Nicky King, a Somerset supporter and member of Somerset CCC's radio team, was weaned on the Somerset of Richards, Botham and Garner. A career in sport would have followed had she not been blessed with poor hand-eye co-ordination and a girly throwing arm. Instead she followed in the footsteps of another childhood influence, James Herriott, and became a vet. A keen follower of county cricket in the summer and England tours in the winter, away from cricket she bakes a legendary carrot cake, and can separate a cat from its testicles in six minutes. @somersetbagpuss

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