Earlier on today at the County Ground, young Somerset wicket-keeper Carl Gazzard told me: "I'm fit,hungry and eager to play first team cricket."

The 19-year-old Cornishman who progressed through the Somerset Academy had a succesful season for the Second XI and kept wicket for England Under-19s in 2000. However he injured his shoulder playing cricket in Perth during the following winter and missed the whole of last season.

"It's almost a year to the day that I had my operation and it's been a frustrating time for me. Never more so than sitting on the balcony at Lord's when we won the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy. I wanted to be out there playing for Somerset," he said.

Since early October Carl has been working to get himself back to full fitness, and has acted as a guinea pig for many of the new training methods that have been introduced.

Head of injury prevention Darren Veness told me: "Carl is amazing, he is a revelation the way that he has worked, you just can't fault him. He went through a lot of pain last year. All of the players know that if they miss out they have got to come back big time to make a threat, and now he's up for it."

Somerset Coach Kevin Shine added: "He has shown fantastic character to come back from the injury that he suffered. Mark Garaway, who is probably one of the best wicket-keeping coaches in the country, rates him very highly. We both think that we have a first-class cricketer on our hands."

With less than two months to go until the start of the 2002 season Carl told me: "The new season is getting closer and closer. I just want to get out there on the field and get the chance to play for the first team. The first big date is March 18th when we all report back. At that point I'll look at the season and hopefully I'll get a chance in one of the pre-season friendlies.

"What I really need is to get some big scores early on in the season for the Seconds to stake my claim. Of course Rob is the number one keeper, second only to Jack Russell in my opinion, but if he has a run of bad form or is injured then I'm ready to take my chance."