If this was a football match, it would be given centre stage on a Sunday afternoon on Sky Sports and billed as a ‘relegation six pointer’. However, this is county cricket, so instead the battle for Division One status will played in front of passionate county members and in the idyllic settings of the County Ground in Taunton.
With these sides currently sitting seventh and eighth in the table respectively, for once it is difficult to overstate the importance of a fixture. This is also both sides’ game in hand on Sussex and Worcestershire, their main challengers for survival, and as such whoever wins here would be confident of keeping their heads above water come the end of the month.
The variations, as is the nature of Championship point scoring, are manifold. As things stand, Hampshire are on 128 points and are ahead of bottom placed Worcestershire (120), but trailing both Somerset (133) and Sussex (146).
A high scoring draw may suit Somerset, but that would be playing things a little too dangerously one would think. Both sides will be hell-bent on producing a winning performance at Taunton to make the last two rounds of fixtures a little less nerve-wracking.
The home side will be aiming to bounce back from a mauling against Champions elect at Headingley last week, where both their batting and bowling fell a long way short. Hampshire are heading to cider country on the back of a heartening victory against a freefalling Durham side. A brace of debutants seemed to freshen the side up, and with three games remaining, now would be the ideal time to find some consistent winning form.
Ryan McLaren made his debut for Hampshire last week up at Chester-le-Street and made an instant impression. His seven wickets in the match helped his side bowl out the hosts cheaply twice, and his lower orders runs will be crucial too. He is an experienced campaigner and will be a calm head for skipper James Vince to call upon as the relegation battle enters its final scene.
Somerset captain Marcus Trescothick has not enjoyed a vintage year for his cherished county. He has been solid and dependable but very often gotten out when set. His 855 runs at an average of 33 is a poor return for a opening batsmen, and he will be looking to cash in this week against Hampshire. As Somerset try to negotiate these final three matches with their Division One status preserved, Trescothick’s calm leadership and run scoring ability will be sorely needed.
Hampshire have named a 13-man squad to travel to Taunton and will have to make a decision as to whether to continue with the all seam attack or to make space for exciting teenage leg spinner Mason Crane.
Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Michael Carberry, Jimmy Adams, Will Smith, Liam Dawson, Sean Ervine, Adam Wheater, Gareth Berg, Ryan McLaren, Ryan Stevenson, Mason Crane, James Tomlinson, Fidel Edwards
Somerset squad: TBA
Ground: County Ground, Taunton
Date: 9th September – 12th September
Weather and conditions:
The weather is set fair for the first three days and should see little disruption, however there is some rain forecast for the final day. The sun has been shining in the glorious west country for the past week, and we can expect a usual straw coloured and flat Taunton pitch.
Somerset 5/6, Hampshire 5/6