The last time these two sides met in the County Championship saw a remarkably comfortable victory for Somerset at Headingley. Jack Leach took a second innings 6-64 before ex-skipper and current skipper, Marcus Trescothick and Tom Abell, knocked off the required 44 runs to complete a 10-wicket victory.
These two sides were both left disappointed to not lift the Division One trophy on that remarkable final day last September. Neither side has reached the dizzying heights of last season’s success; in fact, none of last season’s top three are currently sitting in any of the first three places of the Division One table. Yorkshire sit fourth with 66 points from five matches, whilst Somerset have only Warwickshire below them and are yet to earn a Championship win this season.
Gary Ballance’s Yorkshire side go into this match in far superior form to their hosts, fresh off the back of a Roses routing over Lancashire completed inside two and a half days last Sunday. But a side of Yorkshire’s calibre still expect to be higher than fourth, especially when they have had their England men available for a couple of county matches already this season.
Somerset earned a `winning’ draw at Lords last time out, taking 11 bonus points and seeing the pleasing sight of their young captain Tom Abell spend some time in the middle, scoring 71* on the final day. This will be seen as a decent result for the West Country side, although they could be justifiably frustrated that they were unable push for a victory having lost so many overs to rain over the first three days.
Taunton wickets have grown a reputation for being particularly spin-friendly over the past year or so, but with such a wet preceding week, Jack Leach or Azeem Rafiq will have to work hard to spin their respective sides to victory.
Jack Leach has not yet taken the seemingly regular five-wicket hauls he was producing towards the end of last season, but he does still have 13 County Championship wickets this term and of course the pitches are not yet dry and dusty enough to be conducive to spin. He took 6/78 in the first innings of his last match at Taunton, Somerset’s frustrating 90 run loss to Hampshire. He naturally turns the ball away from the right hander, therefore likely will not be used so much against an all left-handed Yorkshire top three.
Azeem Rafiq is Leach’s opposite number in the spin department, and told the Yorkshire website he is “relishing” the chance to play at Taunton where he is expected to play “a starring role.” He may be joined by left-arm spinner Karl Carver, a man he bowled beautifully in tandem with in the Viking’s Royal London One-Day Cup win over Leicestershire – the match that sealed their quarter-final game at home to Surrey on Tuesday. He has also chipped in a few times with the bat this season and his lusty blows could be particularly productive over the short Taunton boundaries.
Craig Overton returns to the Somerset line-up to beef up the all-rounder department. The other change to Somerset’s last Championship squad sees Adam Hose’s long awaited call up, having scored copious amounts of runs for the second team as well as for the first team in the Royal London One-Day Cup. Before last week, captain Tom Abell would have been the obvious man to make way for Hose, but it’s never easy to drop the nominated captain, especially after he made 71* in his last innings.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), Marcus Trescothick, Dean Elgar, James Hildreth, Steve Davies (wk), Adam Hose, Lewis Gregory, Roelof van der Merwe, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Josh Davey, Dom Bess, Jack Leach and Tim Groenewald.
With Root, Bairstow, Plunkett, Willey and Rashid all involved in England’s Champions Trophy efforts, Yorkshire continue with their ever-impressive youth products. The abundance of fast bowlers provides a slight selection dilemma, even with two of their quicks on international duty. Deciding between Fisher, Brooks, Patterson and Sidebottom and Coad could be especially difficult if Gale and Ballance want to go with a two-man (and Adam Lyth) spin attack. Coad will have a late fitness test on his shin, but expect him to play. He has been Yorkshire’s best bowler by a long way this season.
Tim Bresnan has not travelled due to the pending birth of his third child. Peter Handscomb has kept for Australia as well as for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash, but expect Andrew Hodd to don the gloves so that Handscomb can concentrate on batting at four.
Yorkshire squad: Gary Ballance (c), Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Matthew Fisher, Peter Handscomb, Andrew Hodd (wk), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Azeem Rafiq, Ryan Sidebottom, Matthew Waite.
Weather and conditions
After a very wet few days, Friday is set to be predominantly dry in Taunton. There is a chance of some rain on Saturday, but a dry last couple of days should be enough for a result to be reached from this match.
Date: 9th-13th April 2017
Ground: Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Umpires: Bainton & Hartley
Odds (SkyBet): Somerset 6/5, Yorkshire 4/6