On paper, Hampshire have a side capable of romping to the Specsavers County Championship title in the same manner as Essex’s charge last season.
But the 2018 season has not started too favourably, with two defeats from their last three matches and an injury to their second biggest winter signing, Sam Northeast.
While it’s still early in the season and bad results can be made up for later on, Hampshire are in danger of looking in a slightly worrisome position should they fail to take at least a draw from their trip west.
Hashim Amla is the leading run-scorer in Division One after his century in Hampshire’s defeat at Nottinghamshire last week but he will need those around him to perform as well if they are to go into the Royal London One-Day Cup on a high.
Somerset remain unbeaten and are already looking good for a title challenge, although an injury to the otherwise ever-present Marcus Trescothick will undoubtedly hinder that push.
Runs for George Bartlett, who scored his maiden first-class century, and captain Tom Abell — agonisingly falling one run short of a hundred — at Lancashire last week show encouraging signs.
Abell inexplicably claimed four wickets at Old Trafford but if he is once again required to turn his arm over, it may prove a difficult game for Somerset.
An 86-ball century isn’t going to be a regular occurrence, but Matt Renshaw has already shown the people of Somerset that he’s less Boycott than he’s renowned for. With two hundreds to his name already this season, Renshaw has proved an inspired replacement overseas signing for Cameron Bancroft, and a similar performance here will go a long way towards Somerset claiming their third win of the season.
Rilee Rossouw rightly got plenty of credit for scoring 99 with a chipped bone in his finger in only his second Hampshire game last season. But, since then, his highest score in the Specsavers County Championship is 29, scored last month at Surrey. He is in desperate need of a score and with this the final Championship match for a month, it is the perfect opportunity to show his worth.
Marcus Trescothick is absent having sustained a broken metatarsal in his right foot last week. Eddie Byrom comes back into the squad after injury in a like-for-like replacement for Trescothick, while Somerset also welcome back Josh Davey, although a decision on his match fitness will be made on Friday morning.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), Steve Davies (wk), George Bartlett, Eddie Byrom, Josh Davey, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Matt Renshaw, Paul van Meekeren
Hampshire are without Liam Dawson, who suffered a finger injury in the defeat at Nottinghamshire, but include Lewis McManus in their squad despite also receiving a blow to his finger. Brad Taylor deputises in place of Dawson with Mason Crane making his first squad appearance of the season after recovering from a stress fracture to his lower back.
Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Lewis McManus (wk), Kyle Abbott, Jimmy Adams, Tom Alsop, Hashim Amla, Gareth Berg, Mason Crane, Fidel Edwards, Rilee Rossouw, Ryan Stevenson, Brad Taylor, Joe Weatherley, Brad Wheal
Weather and conditions
After a spell of hot, dry weather, this could be the time for Somerset to turn Taunton back into Ciderabad, despite forecasts for showers scattered across this weekend.
Date: 11th-14th May 2018
Ground: The Cooper Associates County Ground
Odds (SkyBet): Somerset 8/11, Hampshire 11/10