Somerset get their home campaign of the T20 Blast underway this evening with the visit of Essex to a sold out Cooper Associates County Ground.
Somerset come into this fixture off the back of a humiliating defeat to Sussex in front of the Sky cameras on Wednesday. They also lost their first match away to Kent, so sit rock bottom of the South Group table as the only side with two losses from two matches.
Yet their last home game leaves the West Country outfit with much fonder memories. On Monday, Somerset completed a remarkable one wicket Championship win over Surrey-Jack Leach and Tim Groenwald putting on 31 for the last wicket to take their team over the line.
Essex have been in great form in the longest format, they sit top of Specsavers County Championship Division Two and scored 412-4 declared amid 12 wickets for 296 in their tour match with the Sri Lankans. They narrowly lost their first Blast game to an Azhar Mahmood inspired Surrey, but bounced back with a resounding seven wicket win at Glamorgan on Wednesday night.
Nine of the last 12 NatWest T20 Blast games in Taunton have been won by the team batting first, thus the coin toss could be particularly pivotal for this affair.
The last five meetings between these sides have seen the victor alternate, with Somerset winning the last t20 meeting – in Chelmsford in May last year.
Both sides are in the midst of a busy few days of white ball cricket with their next fixtures being their respective Royal London One Day Cup openers at 11am on Sunday.
Chris Gayle cannot be overlooked for Somerset. The Universe Boss was the difference in the reverse fixture last season, creaming 92 off 59 balls as Somerset reached The Eagles 176 on the final delivery of the match. Although embarrassed by a 93mph Tymal Mills delivery on Wednesday evening, he did hit 76 off 38 balls in a losing cause in the IPL final and simply loves losing balls in the River Tone and St James’ church graveyard. Look out for rocketing round white things if walking near the County Ground tonight!
It has been interesting to see Essex captain Ravi Bopara opening the batting with Jesse Ryder this campaign. He is surely due a significant contribution, scoring just five in his two t20 innings thus far. A genuine all rounder, the ex-England man also pretty much guarantees the side four economical overs, usually picking up a wicket or two.
Somerset have all their big names available for tonight’s fixture and Director of Cricket Matt Maynard will have some difficult decisions to make. Expect the last three names on the team sheet; Groenewald, Leask and Myburgh to be the three to miss out.
Somerset squad: Jim Allenby (c), Ryan Davies (wk), Chris Gayle, Peter Trego, Mahela Jayawardena, James Hildreth, Lewis Gregory, Roelof van der Merwe, Jamie Overton, Yasir Arafat, Max Waller, Tim Groenewald, Michael Leask and Johann Myburgh
Head Coach Chris Silverwood has added Matt Dixon and Jaik Mickleburgh to the team that beat Glamorgan on Wednesday evening, but one would not expect him to change a winning side.
Essex squad: Ravi Bopara (c), James Foster (wk), Jesse Ryder, Tom Westley, Dan Lawrence, Ryan ten Doeschate, Ashar Zaidi, Wahab Riaz, Callum Taylor, David Masters, Matt Dixon, Matt Quinn, Jaik Mickleburgh
Weather and Conditions
It has been a very dry, hot and humid week in Taunton, and this is forecast to continue throughout the weekend. The most recent match at the County Ground (the one wicket home win over Surrey completed on Monday) did produce surprising low scores, but expect the winners of the toss to bat first and it to be a real run-fest in Taunton this evening.
Date: 3rd June 2016
Ground: Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Umpires: Nick Cook and Mike Burns
Odds (SkyBet): Somerset 4/5, Essex 1/1