County previews 2014 March 30, 2014

Somerset face up to change


Last year
6th, CC Div 1; Quarter-finals, FLt20; Semi-finals, YB40.

2013 in a nutshell
By the standards of most clubs, 2013 was a pretty good season. Somerset reached the semifinals of the YB40, the quarter-finals of the FLt20 and were sixth in the Championship. But, by their high standards, 2013 was a disappointment. Instead of challenging for that elusive Championship title, they ended the season staving off relegation and finished with the same amount of victories (three) as Derbyshire. After failing to win any of their first eight Championship games, they were relieved to win two of their last four, with late-season signing, Piyush Chawla contributing heavily. To worsen matters, the club was unable to retain the services of Jos Buttler after he accepted the offer of more regular wicket-keeping opportunities at Lancashire.

The combination of disappointing results and the Buttler departure led to questions about the future of the new director of cricket Dave Nosworthy, who was recruited from South Africa ahead of the season. Though the club hierarchy sensibly reasoned that he needed more than a year to instil his values at the club, he will enter 2014 under some pressure.

Marcus Trescothick, for so long the rock upon which Somerset's efforts were built, struggled for form in 2013 and failed to register a century in the season for the first time since 1998. It was a decline mirrored across a good part of the squad, with Steve Kirby also a fading force with the ball and the club's coterie of younger players slightly too green to take up the slack. Gemaal Hussain, who never replicated the excellence of his form with Gloucestershire, was released at the end of the season. There were success stories: Nick Compton reached 1,000 runs in the season and averaged 50+ despite playing only 12 Championship matches and Craig Kieswetter cast off his disappointing Championship form with an excellent T20 campaign.

2014 prospects
A glance at the bowling attack sums up the situation in which Somerset find themselves. With Kirby (who is now 36 and may well miss the start of the season following shoulder surgery) and Alfonso Thomas (aged 37) a year or two past their best and the younger crop - the Overtons, Dockrell, Meschede, Gregory et al - still developing, the club finds itself in a transitional era. It is similar with the batting, with Somerset having been heavily reliant on either Trescothick and Compton in recent times and more now required from the likes of James Hildreth and Craig Kieswetter in the Championship. Perhaps that explains the recruitment of Johann Myburgh, a 33-year-old batting all-rounder of South African background but who does not count as an overseas player, to strengthen the middle-order. Much will be required of the young all-rounders Meschede and Gregory if the struggles of last year are not to be repeated. A title challenge might therefore prove beyond them, with the limited-overs competitions offering a better chance of success. Alviro Petersen returns as overseas player, with the club still exploring the market for T20 options.

Key player
By backing Craig Kieswetter as keeper ahead of Buttler, Somerset made a clear choice about which of the two they would rather stay with the club. It is not just Kieswetter's playing ability that the club rate, it is his character. Somerset remains pleasantly, but perhaps not helpfully, gentle and it may prove that Kieswetter is promoted to a leadership role sooner rather than later. Bearing in mind the club's commitment to him, many were surprised by his decision to enter the IPL auction and it remains a danger that he will win a recall to the England set-up, leaving Somerset without both him and Buttler. But for now, he remains a highly valuable player for the club and a central part of the long-term plans.

Bright young thing
Somerset have an excellent record of producing players in recent years and there are many young men on their current staff who could have been chosen for this category. But in the Overton twins, they have two gems. Jamie Overton has gained more attention so far and is blessed with the height and unusual pace that suggests he could go on to enjoy a career at the top level. But Craig, who missed most of last season with a back injury, is also a fine prospect. While not quite as quick as his brother, he has an action that faintly resembles Stuart Broad's and also bats. There are concerns both could be over-bowled or called into the England system too soon, but both have the raw potential to become valuable players for Somerset for a decade or more.

Dave Nosworthy remains as director of cricket, with Andy Hurry now in charge of the academy and player development. Dave Houghton has joined as batting coach and Jason Kerr has been promoted to the bowling coach role. Trescothick remains as captain, with James Hildreth vice-captain. It may well be that he or Kieswetter will take the captaincy role in at least one of the formats sooner rather than later.

ESPNcricinfo verdict
A Championship challenge looks unlikely, with Somerset in transition and Nosworthy's plans for the future taking shape. The club do possess an unusual number of talented young bowlers, though, so the long-term future remains bright.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Matthew on April 4, 2014, 21:23 GMT

    @EdRiley I totally agree that we wont miss Buttler one bit in 1st class cricket he is a overrated cricketer that has made his reputation through a few cameos of 30 or 40 in limited overs cricket on TV. He isnt a good enough player to construct consistent 1st class scores. Our biggest weakness this season is the captain who I fear will not use the youngsters correctly for example last year over bowled Overton when he should use him in short 4over bursts & he is on the whole a very poor captain. I'm very positive about this season with the youngsters coming though particularly Jamie Overton, Gregory, Meschede & Leach who last season bowled far better than Dockrell who has really regressed as a bowler in the last 18 months. Gregory & Meschede bowled us to safety last year and I hope they start this season, instead of Kirby who is past it & Trego who with bat & ball in 1st class cricket was poor last year. My Team: Tres Alviro Compo Hildy Kies Myburgh Meschede Gregory Alf J.Overton Leach

  • John on April 4, 2014, 19:33 GMT

    @Ed Riley on (April 4, 2014, 13:01 GMT) My hunch would have been to stick with Craig. He was the original keeper and while I think Jos is a better SF player and I think his 1st class stats will improve I wonder if Jos's head has been turned and there would have been more demands to follow. There was no easy decision that would be popular with everyone.

    I do however think it messes up our SF balance. We saw in the YB40 semi that Trego was caught between 2 schools of thought wanting to play his aggressive game but knowing that we didn't have Jos down the order. I was hoping we could maybe have signed Moore from Lancs and maybe shuffled Tres down to play the Buttler role at 6

  • Dummy4 on April 4, 2014, 13:01 GMT

    Am I the only one that doesn't think the Buttler loss is that unfortunate? Kies averages 40+ in CCC while Buttler barely manages 30. While the younger of the two is more of a "game-changer", he's also far too inconsistent by any standard. Not good riddance - I loved watching him bat, and still do - just if I'd had a choice I definitely would have taken the route SCCC did.

    This coming season will prove, I think, slightly less difficult than last. If the apparent promise shown by the four youngsters (Meschede, Gregory, Overton x2) can be exploited, then 2015 and 2016 should be really exciting. Bowling has been our weakness since Caddick retired. Will happily settle for a repeat of last season - but if we could get the three wins early on, that would be lovely :-)

  • John on April 4, 2014, 10:09 GMT

    Hopefully this will get published this time

    Accidetntally published a comm on the wrong thread.

    Re Somerset , I fear for the team this year. Losing the best homegrown player since Tres is not good and it's a shame we have not brought in anyone of note - esp after last year's struggles and the fact we reported such a decent financial year. Still I suppose we could add to the coaching staff

  • Dummy4 on April 4, 2014, 3:05 GMT

    As a huge Somerset fan I really hope the boys can step up and show what they can do this season. Last year the lack of runs from Tresco was a massive hole, as nothing takes wickets like scoreboard pressure, so fingers crossed he's got a couple more fruitful seasons in him while the likes of the Overtons and Dockrell come through. Buttler is a big loss but Kieswetter is an international quality player who probably won't play much international cricket, whereas Buttler would have been off with England for parts of the season. If the likes of Compton, Hildreth and Trego have good seasons with the bat, we could do a lot better than people are expecting.

  • Derek on April 3, 2014, 12:15 GMT

    As a Somerset fan, I expect Somerset to do well in pa tches. Consistency is the main problem with Zummerzet. I am now not sure of their bowling resources, we need to 20 wickets to win matches. Kirby, Thomas, Trego, Overton, Dockrell sounds like a good bowling line up but age is a big factor. Lets hope our youngsters will produce their lifetime best. We still have Gregory, Meschede, Dibble, other Overton player, Leach in the sidelines ready to step into the big time. COME ON SOMERSET, DO US PROUD PLEASE!!!!

  • John on April 2, 2014, 19:30 GMT

    @wapuser on (April 1, 2014, 19:48 GMT) I don't think Compton is particularly outspoken . I've certainly not read anything that he has badmouthed anyone and he certainly doesn't epitomise flair. Johnny maybe has a little flair but is probably one of the least outspoken guys around the England set up. I think you may be right re flair and being outspoken but not sure those 2 names are the best examples

  • Matthew on April 2, 2014, 2:18 GMT

    I reckon we can surprise a few people this year. Improvement in the CC is definately possible, a potential top 5. Hopefully Petersen will be available for longer this time. And no one should be underestimating us in the T20 with Tresco, Trego, Kieswetter and Mesch can hit a few too, plus the overseas T20 player. Decent amount of quality young players there - Dibble also who wasn't mentioned who I've been impressed with before he got injured. Squad may be a bit thin on numbers but decent chances without a doubt.

  • Mark on April 1, 2014, 19:16 GMT

    Somerset should survive and that is what the target has to be. Give the youngsters another year to develop. I've always been a fan of Craig Kieswetter and would love to see him have the sort of big season that he needed a couple of years ago to become the back-up to Matt Prior in the Test side. There are plenty of players who can help the side to safety, but the bowling attack is a real problem.

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    Nobody deserves to lead Somerset to a championship title like Trescothick. For all his struggles he has been arguably our finest ever player for the club and his commitment and passion for the county are undeniable. Nothing would make Somerset fans happier than seeing Tres lead us to a title (preferably the Championship but to see him win any trophy at this point would be amazing).

    If Trego/Kies carry their form from last year in the limited overs stuff and get a bit more support from the other batsmen we stand as good a chance as any.

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