Compared to how they were dramatically pipped to the title in September 2016, thanks to Middlesex and Yorkshire’s declaration bowling farce, this was a severely underwhelming season for Somerset CCC.
They did not get a Championship win until the first week of July, when they played Yorkshire at Scarborough without their appointed captain. The corresponding fixture, just a few weeks previously, had seen an agonising 3 run loss when Yorkshire’s Dave Callaghan had just handed back to Anthony Gibson in the commentary box to let the Somerset man talk through Somerset’s seemingly inevitable last gasp win.
But it wasn’t to be for Somerset in the longest form this season, at times they lived up to their old “nearly men” tag, but at other times were quite severely outplayed.
The early start to the RLODC this year seemed to suit the Cider men, though they never did it the easy way. Roleof van der Merwe’s unbelievable 165*, in a record breaking 6th wicket partnership with Dean Elgar, encapsulated a group stage where Somerset regularly fell to somewhere around 20-3 (or 22-5 in this particular Surrey game) only to be brought back from the dead by their ever-entertaining middle and lower order.
Their place in the competition was lost on one of the most remarkable run scoring days – even at a run fest renowned ground – that there has ever been. On a belter of a day back in June, 834 runs were scored in 98 overs by Somerset, and their twice short form knock out adversaries Notts Outlaws. 28 sixes were struck in total as Somerset cantered after the highest List A total ever posted in Taunton.
They squeezed through the group stage, thanks to run-rate and a last match battering of previous table toppers and finals day regulars Hampshire. Notts were also Somerset’s bunnies in the T20 quarterfinal, though it was again a close contest, Notts winning by five wickets with nine balls to spare.
Somerset’s 151 never looked to be enough, but a superb bowling and fielding display frustrated the Outlaws dynamic batting line-up more than any would have imagined. It needed Samit Patel, Dan Christian and Steven Mullaney – at five, six and seven respectively – to dig Notts out of a hole Somerset never gave up digging.
SSCC: 6th, Division One
T20 Blast: eg. Quarter-Finals (4th, South Division)
RLODC: Quarter-Finals (2nd, South Division)
County Championship: Steve Davies, 775 runs
RLODC: Elgar 519 runs
T20: James Hildreth 293 runs (Johann Myburgh made 290, but from 5 fewer performances)
Championship: Jack Leach, 51 wickets
RLODC: Craig Overton, 16 wickets
T20: Max Waller, 16 wickets (van der Merwe & Craig Overton both took 15)
Player of the Season:
The last seven years of playing North Devon League Cricket for my village club invariably brought us against North Devon CC many a time. On each occasion, one of the players more than a couple years older than me would tell me about how they smashed the Overtons around the park when they were just 13 or 14. Last season I turned up at Instow to find Craig Overton in sports gear, mucking about on the field at 1pm on a Sunday – surely he wasn’t going to be trying to take my head off in Sunday village cricket?
My fears were saved. He wasn’t playing; he was just watching some mates whilst injured. But boy has Overton come back from frustrating injuries from previous seasons (which still plague his brother) to dominate with the ball in all three forms this season. Deservedly on the plane to Australia, even before the Ben Stokes fiasco.
The 19-year-old Devon off-spinner Dom Bess’s call up to the England Lions squad says almost all that’s required for a lad who is just a year younger than myself. He played Devon cricket along with me his entire cricketing career, and went to the same school as my siblings, yet I’d never heard of until 14 months ago.
I watched him make his first-class debut bowling long hop throw downs at Younis Khan in July last year. As a result of that performance he had to wait two more months for his Championship debut, but responded remarkably with 6-28 including the prized scalps of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell. What a journey this young man has come on in such a short space of time!
Could have done better:
Having taken on the captaincy at the tender age of 23 this Spring, Tom Abell never found any run scoring form this season, averaging just 26 with no centuries. It even got to the stage, in early July, when Somerset felt the need to drop their captain in an attempt for him to find form in the 2s and club cricket.
Need to work on:
Batting frailties: early in the season, when Dean Elgar was playing regularly, it seemed to be a one-man batting line-up. Whether digging in from the top of the order, whilst all collapsed around him, or shoring up from the middle order when 20-3, too many batsmen took too long to find any sort of nick this summer.
With Director of Cricket Matt Maynard and one-day captain Jim Allenby both departing, Andy Hurry has returned as the new DoC whilst Jason Kerr has been promoted to Head Coach. Expect these two to bring some fresh blood and new ideas into the squad during the off season.
One-Day performances were solid if not spectacular, falling at the Quarter-final stage in both competitions. Going from a couple of points away from the Championship title last year to one point off relegation this summer, however, will be the main concern. They’ll be delighted to have pulled off a miraculous escape, yet when looking back on this summer the squad have to look for better Championship performances next season.