Somerset have been in supreme form in the Vitality Blast this season and will come into Finals Day full of confidence.
They swept all before them to top the South Group before cruising past defending champions Notts in the semi-finals.
To get a perspective on how Somerset fans are feeling about the prospect of another trip to Finals Day, Deep Extra Cover spoke to supporter Felix Parkin and he began by explaining the secret behind Somerset’s strong campaign.
“There are a variety of reasons as to why Somerset have found great success in the T20 Blast this year.
“The first is that Somerset benefit from having specialist T20 players. Overseas signings Corey Anderson and Jerome Taylor as well as Pete Trego, Johann Myburgh, Roelof Van Der Merwe and Max Waller do not often, if at all, don the whites and can instead focus on the white ball.
“A second reason is that they have been pioneers of ‘attacking cricket’ which is more or less the attitude that they will go hard at every stage of their innings. The saying in T20 cricket is that if you lose three wickets in the powerplay, you will lose the game.
“Well, Somerset have made that statement somewhat of a myth thanks to a powerful middle order that is not afraid to lose its wicket. Five times Somerset have recovered from being three wickets down after six overs to win.
“This ‘attacking cricket’ would leave some teams prone to a collapse but when Somerset have Lewis Gregory – a man who opened in this format last year – in at 7, a genuine all-rounder in Roelof Van Der Merwe in at 8 and at least one Overton not far behind then you can see why the South-West men have the highest run rate outside the powerplay in the competition.”
To implement such a style as Felix describes, a side needs it’s star players to deliver. So who has stood out this season?
“The gameplan mentioned above would be nothing if it wasn’t rigorously implemented on the pitch and Lewis Gregory’s captaincy has been outstanding, not allowing the pressure mount and sticking to the gameplan.
“Added to that, he has been absolutely ruthless with the bat with three half centuries and the highest strike rate in the competition of 216.89.
“Yet, it is hard to pick a stand out batsman. Corey Anderson has the most runs yet James Hildreth has the most half-centuries. Then again, Roelof Van Der Merwe has the highest average. But the only man with a century to his name is Johann Myburgh.
“The fact is Somerset have a lot of match-winners and each game has seen a different name stand up to the plate. It’s perhaps a different story with the ball as Max Waller has undoubtedly been the pick of the attack.”
Finals Day is one of the highlights of the cricketing calendar, with four teams descending on Edgbaston to battle it out for the coveted title. Felix explained what making it to the showpiece event again means to Somerset fans.
“Yes, unlike others, Somerset have been here plenty of times before but the significance of this year should not be underestimated.
“Less than twelve months on from the ECB deciding the south-west was not worthy of a team in the new city tournament, Somerset have shown there is life in the old sleepy county yet – much to the delight of the supporters.”
Somerset have become the nearly-men of the County Championship, desperately trying to clinch that Division One title. They looked like pushing leaders Surrey close this year, only to stutter in recent weeks.
If Felix could choose one of the two crowns, which would he go for?
“Perhaps this is aimed at the fan of the wrong county. The holy grail for Somerset remains that elusive first County Championship title.
“As ungrateful as it seems, being that Somerset will seemingly finish second in Division One, but those who hold the county closest to their heart would gladly give away a T20 trophy to finish that one place higher in the Championship.”
Somerset, with their experience of Finals Day and their form this year, will likely enter Saturday as favourites. Felix feels they have what it takes to win.
“Often unfancied, I personally do believe Somerset are the best equipped side to win at Edgbaston.
“They may not have a household name like Lancashire with Jos Buttler and Worcestershire with Moeen Ali but there is no reliance on one particular player with Somerset.
“Any one of the team is a potential match winner as proven throughout this season’s competition. Sussex in the semi will be tough but Somerset have already beaten them at Hove – and that was when Rashid Khan was playing.
“Somerset have only lost twice in matches where the full quota of overs have been bowled and one of those was by five runs when they were controversially docked six for a slow over rate.
With up to nine different bowling options, their own internationals in Anderson and Taylor and a wealth of county talent that have perhaps been unfortunate to be overlooked by England in the past, Somerset’s fans are itching for the county to win at Edgbaston and show it should be overlooked by the ECB no more.”