2015 looks set to herald a season of change at Taunton, albeit gradual as opposed to sweeping. Last season was a disappointing one for Somerset’s expectant supporters. A below par performance in the County Championship led to the side spending most of the season peering over their shoulder rather than searching for that elusive maiden Championship title.
The ten draws across 16 matches tell their own story; the side lacked the cutting edge with the ball to force victories on the flat decks of Taunton. While Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton both enjoyed fine seasons with the ball, taking over 40 wickets apiece, they lacked the support, particularly in the spin department, to make inroads on a regular enough basis.
While Championship stagnation is a sight the Taunton faithful have become accustomed to, similar failings in the limited-overs competitions are not. 50-over cup performances were inconsistent at best, as three victories from eight games left Somerset failing to even qualify for the quarter-finals.
But it was missing out on the knockout stages of the T20 Blast that hurt supporters the most. The county’s traditional strong suit fell away badly last year, as they garnered just six victories from their 14 games.
Looking ahead to 2015 however, there are more than a few reasons for Somerset’s fans to be optimistic. In the shorter formats, a couple of blockbuster overseas signings have signalled the intent on regaining their T20 prowess this year. Both Chris Gayle and Corey Anderson will appear in the Blast this season, and on Taunton’s postage stamp ground, the nearby river and graveyard may take a battering on Friday nights.
Looking towards the Championship, Tim Groenewald has now been signed on a permanent deal from Derbyshire, and will seek to add a new dimension to Somerset’s attack. The wicket keeping position is an area that may cause some concern heading into the new season, with Jos Buttler now a distant memory, and Craig Kieswetter ruled out for this season at least. Alex Barrow will need to step up and take on a whole heap of responsibility if the Cidermen are to improve on last season’s showing.
Under new coach Matt Maynard, Marcus Trescothick has retained the four-day captaincy, but Somerset have taken an intriguing approach to preparing for life after Trescothick by instating 38-year-old Alfonso Thomas in to the role of One-Day captain. How this policy will serve the county; only time will tell.
Ins: Tim Groenewald (Derbyshire), Ollie Sale (YTH), Tim Rouse (YTH), Sam Wyatt-Haines (YTH), Jim Allenby (Glamorgan), Tom Cooper (EUP)
Outs: James Burke (Surrey), Nick Compton (Middlesex), Craig Meschede (Glamorgan, season-long loan), Alviro Petersen (Lancashire, as Kolpak)
As it seems to be every year, Somerset’s key player is Peter Trego. The best current county player never to play for England is beginning his 16th First Class season, and will be charged with leading both the seam attack and providing some swashbuckling late order hitting. It is hard to elucidate just how vital Trego has become to Somerset’s fortunes over the past few years. However, a simple look at his stats from last year, shows his indispensability to the side. 49 Championship wickets, alongside 644 runs including a century are impressive, but when coupled to his one-day match winning abilities, he becomes one of the best county players going.
Player to watch
As mentioned, with Kieswetter being absent this season, 2015 looks set to be a career defining one for Alex Barrow. The 22 year old from Bath has had to make do with playing irregularly as a specialist batsmen and understudy wicketkeeper for his early career. A first-class average of 21.27 from 30 games does not do Barrow justice, the diminutive batsmen showed last season that he has the ability to succeed at First Class level. This season will be about performing consistently, whilst also providing stability for his side in all three formats.
Where to begin? Maynard took little time to secure a veritable feast of overseas talent for the Taunton crowd this summer. The headline signing is surely that of Chris Gayle, head and shoulders the best T20 batsmen in the world, and fresh from his World Cup double century heroics. While his big hitting style should be well suited to the batting friendly conditions at Taunton, it is his shuffling, no run-up off-spin that may be of more use to Somerset.
Gayle is available for up to 6 matches in this year’s Blast, and each one is set to be a sell-out. Alongside Gayle, Somerset have also snapped up Corey Anderson. Whilst the two batting colossuses won’t actually play in the same side, they will provide Somerset with all round firepower throughout the competition. In the bowling department, they will be furnished with Pakistani left arm seamer Sohail Tanvir who will be available for the entire T20 Blast season. In the Championship Abdur Rehman will return for a second stint at Taunton, and will remain available for all formats for the entire summer.
Season Odds (via SkyBet)
LV County Championship Division One: 8/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 8/1
Natwest T20 Blast: 8/1