County previews April 4, 2013

Bowling Somerset's one sticking point

Last year: Second, CC Div 1; Semi-final, T20; Third Group B, CB40

2012 in a nutshell: It says much about how expectations have risen at Somerset that last year was seen as disappointing by some. It probably shouldn't have been. Somerset equalled their best-ever Championship finish in coming second - the fifth time in succession they have finished in the top four - and again qualified - for the fourth time in succession - for T20 finals day only to come unstuck against Hampshire's medium-pacers and spinners in the semi-final. They were the only side to defeat Warwickshire in the Championship, thanks to a terrific innings from Craig Kieswetter, and, along with Warwickshire, the only side to lose only one game. They suffered terribly with injury - the loss of Marcus Trescothick for almost half the season was a colossal blow - though the sustained excellence of Nick Compton, who averaged 99.25 in the Championship, with the bat and Peter Trego, who claimed 50 Championship wickets for the first time in his career, partially made up for it. Various overseas players, notably Chris Gayle, flirted with the club only to ultimately disappoint, but the emergence of yet more talented young players - such as the Overton twins - compensated. They lost their first four CB40 games, which all but ended their interest in the competition, but then went through the rest of the campaign unbeaten.

2013 prospects: If, as seems likely, Somerset are to be without Compton for much of the season, he will prove desperately hard to replace. Alviro Petersen, who has been signed as an overseas player for the first part of the season, is one of those charged with filling Compton's boots, while spinner Abdur Rehman, so successful in his brief stint in 2012, returns towards the end of the season. With a long, strong and positive batting order, Somerset should continue to be a force in the limited-overs formats and look hard to beat in the Championship, but whether they have the bowling firepower to bowl sides out twice remains to be seen. While there are some exciting bowlers emerging, some of the more experienced performers - the likes of Steve Kirby and Alfonso Thomas - are in their mid-30s and may need careful handling. Dave Nosworthy, the new director of cricket, will also have to resolve the issue of finding a way to satisfy two talented young wicketkeeper-batsmen with England aspirations.

Key player: Gemaal Hussain secured a large pay rise when he left Gloucestershire for Taunton at the start of 2011 but, so far, he has failed to live up to expectations with only 35 first-class wickets in two seasons at an average of 39.20. Now aged 29, time is running out for him to justify his signing. It goes without saying that Tresocthick remains a giant at this level.

Bright young thing: Somerset have a host of talented young players. George Dockrell, the Overton twins - Craig has more than a hint of Stuart Broad about his bowling - Lewis Gregory and Craig Meschede - should all have bright futures. But, amid the excitement in his unique style, it could be easily forgotten that Jos Buttler is only 22. He continues to learn his trade as a batsman - he didn't score a Championship century last year - and a keeper but has the potential to become a special player.

Captain/coach: Marcus Trescothick remains as captain, with Dave Nosworthy, the South African coach who has enjoyed success both at home and in New Zealand, replacing Brian Rose as director of cricket. Andy Hurry remains as head coach.

Cricinfo's verdict: A strong and explosive batting unit and canny bowling attack remains well-suited to the shorter formats, though a nagging worry remains about their Championship prospects: has Somerset's best chance of success passed them by?

Read our supporters' network preview on Somerset. ESPNcricinfo will be publishing a fan blog for each of the 18 counties as we build up to the 2013 season.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo