Those heading to Taunton on Friday obviously didn’t get Colin Graves memo on the popularity of county cricket, as a sold out crowd will witness what is sure to be a thrilling ‘cider derby’ as both teams begin their Vitality Blast campaigns.
Gloucestershire have enjoyed success over their West Country neighbours in this format recently having won the last four completed matches between the sides dating back to 2015.
Michael Klinger is back as captain and in Benny Howell they have one of the best T20 operators on the circuit. So despite being seen as outsiders by many due to the fact they finished bottom of the South Group last year, you would be foolish to write them off.
Languishing at the bottom of Division Two and with only two wins in their One Day Cup campaign it has been pretty dreadful season so far, but it is obvious this is the competition which Gloucestershire are targeting and a win at Taunton will provide the perfect platform for the rest of the competition.
The first three months of Somerset’s season has been the complete opposite. After their relegation battle in 2017 many tipped them for the drop in the Championship, but they’ve only tasted defeat once in that competition and remain contenders to win their first ever title.
They also failed to qualify out of the South Group in the One-Day Cup but did beat eventual winners Hampshire by chasing down 357 in their final match which outlines their prowess as a dangerous white-ball team.
Despite their recent failures against their opponents, they still lead the head-to-head by 12 to 10 in T20 matches and there is no reason why they cannot extent their lead with a packed Taunton behind them on Friday evening.
While his brother Craig earnt England recognition over the winter, Jamie Overton was battling an injury that saw him not play for Somerset in this format in 2017. They still reached the quarter-finals but the bowler – who is capable of reaching 90mph – could provide the extra piece of quality required and help them go one better by reaching Finals Day this time around. On a personal note, Overton has been earmarked as a future international star alongside his brother and a good T20 campaign should help put his name back on the map after a frustrating year.
You would struggle to find a more influential overseas player than Michael Klinger in recent years. The Australian has been destroying county attacks since 2013 and, although he is now only playing T20 cricket following his retirement from the first-class game earlier this year, his return is a huge boost for Gloucestershire. The opener also has a particularly good record against Somerset, scoring a century on his last visit to Taunton back in 2016 to help his team to a seven wicket victory.
Craig Overton, Jack Leach and Tim Groenewald aren’t included for Somerset due to injury but Corey Anderson is available. The New Zealander is the only overseas in the squad but he’ll be hoping to play a full part in this year’s tournament, after having to leave his team’s 2017 campaign early due to a back problem.
Somerset Squad: Lewis Gregory (c), Tom Abell, Corey Anderson, Dom Bess, Josh Davey, Steve Davies (wk), Ben Green, James Hildreth, Johan Myburgh, Jamie Overton, Peter Trego, Roelof van der Merwe, Max Waller.
The visitors will be relieved to have Liam Norwell and David Payne back available after injury, both of whom have missed the majority of the season thus far. Thisara Perera, who played seven games for the club last year, has replaced Andrew Tye as the clubs second overseas player for the first two games of this competition with the Australian on international duty. Championship and One-Day Cup captain Chris Dent is left out.
Gloucestershire Squad: Michael Klinger (c), Ian Cockbain, Miles Hammond, George Hankins, Ryan Higgins, Benny Howell, Liam Norwell, David Payne, Thisara Perera, Tom Smith, Jack Taylor, Matt Taylor, Gareth Roderick (wk), Graeme van Buuren.
Weather and Conditions
This fixture was abandoned without a ball being bowled last season but there should be no such problems on Friday as the recent scorching weather looks set to continue. Therefore expect to see lots of runs especially on a surface that seems to deliver plenty in T20 cricket.
Date: 6th July 2018
Ground: Cooper Associates County Ground
Odds (SkyBet): Somerset 8/11, Gloucestershire 11/10