County Championship, Division One April 26, 2013

April the cruellest month for Somerset

Somerset have struggled to get out of the blocks in the opening matches of recent seasons, conceding valuable ground to their title rivals. An opening defeat to Durham only worsened their early-season record

Before Somerset's Championship match against Warwickshire the ECB tweeted an interesting statistic - Somerset have lost just three matches in the County Championship at Taunton since the start of 2009. In fact the last team to beat Somerset at Fortress Taunton were Lancashire, who won the final match of the 2011 season and along with it the County Championship.

But behind this apparent near invincibility on home turf lies another less palatable Somerset statistic. For Somerset April is indeed the cruellest month.

Since their return to Division One of the County Championship in 2008 Somerset have played 15 championship matches in April. They have won just two. Six have been lost, with seven matches drawn. The lowlight was April 2011 when they lost their opening match to Warwickshire at home followed by Lancashire away each by an innings and inside three days. Each season Somerset watch the eventual champions reaching the first hurdle whilst they are still stuck behind the tape.

Only two other counties have been ever-present in the first division since 2008; Durham and Nottinghamshire. Durham, winners in 2008 and 2009, have won five of their April matches over this period, lost two and drawn seven. Nottinghamshire, who pipped Somerset to the 2010 title on games won fare even better in April with seven wins and four draws; their loss last week to Warwickshire at Edgbaston was their first loss in April since their promotion to Division One as runners up to Somerset in Division Two in 2007. When the Morgan Report of 2011 proposed reducing the County Championship from 16 to 14 matches per season I'm sure I wasn't the only Somerset supporter who thought briefly that it might not be such a bad thing, as long as the two matches dropped were the first two of the season.

There is one more telling statistic. Of Somerset's 15 April matches, just five have been at home, compared to Nottinghamshire (seven out of 12) and Durham (nine out of 14).

Maybe when it comes to playing in April, there really is no place like home.

* * * * * *

A few years ago I was invited to a posh awards dinner. It was an occasion that demanded an equally posh frock - and I knew just the one I wanted. Red, sequins, designer label with a price tag to match. Credit card at the ready, I went shopping.

The dress had been sold. Crestfallen, I searched the rails for an alternative. And I found one. Understated, by a lesser-known designer, it cost a bit less than my original choice. But it was beautifully made and fitted in all the right places. On the night I felt like a million dollars.

Which is something akin to what the Somerset hierarchy must have felt at The Oval when Graeme Smith edged Peter Trego to James Hildreth for just 2, having watched their own South African opening batsman make a record 167 on début for the county the previous day. That Alviro Petersen failed to score a century in each innings is probably down to someone casually asking when he was on 80-something whether this had ever been achieved by a Somerset batsman on début. (I asked. It hasn't. My apologies Alviro).

Petersen's arrival wasn't a moment too soon for Somerset. His batting performance against Surrey only increased the suspicion that had he not been delayed in South Africa for fitness tests he may have just made the difference in a close fought opening match at Durham. Bowler-friendly conditions at Chester-Le-Street can only go so far to excuse a batting performance that conceded a 127-run first innings lead, then collapsed from 130 for 2 to 186 all out whilst chasing 235 to win on the final day. Craig Kieswetter was the only batsman to emerge from the match with any credit. A slightly left-field choice to bat at No. 3 in the absence of Petersen and Compton. He didn't appear out of place.

I would like to think it was not a one off, although if Kieswetter is to bat at No. 3 once Compton returns to the England fold it would mean Petersen moving up to open with Marcus Trescothick. Petersen meanwhile has followed up his Oval century with another at Taunton against Warwickshire. With 394 runs in just three innings he couldn't be more loved at Taunton if he drove a tractor singing Wurzels and bled pure Thatchers Gold.

Rumour has it that back in late 2004 another Petersen - in this case, the one with the "i", Kevin - came so close to signing for Somerset after he was given a sponsored car. After a winter driving the car around he emerged as a new signing for - Hampshire. KP of course has just been ruled out of the Champion's Trophy with an ongoing knee problem. It will be a race for him to be fit for this summer's Ashes. With Surrey having only one County Championship match scheduled between his anticipated date of return and the Ashes, along with an England warm-up match against Essex, speculation is rife that he may "do a Strauss" and play for Somerset against the visiting Australians. Maybe if Kevin makes a guest appearance he could bring the car back.

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

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