Somerset will be hoping for revenge when they welcome Hampshire to Taunton in the upcoming round in Division One of the LV= County Championship.
James Vince’s men earned a comprehensive victory in the opening fixture of the season, with their bowlers making light work of the West Country side, bowling them out for under 200 in both of their innings.
A win for Hampshire could lead to the side heading to the top of Division 1 on Sunday evening, ahead of the break in red-ball cricket due to the start of the Vitality Blast. They currently sit in third place, with Somerset three places, and 25 points, behind.
Momentum could be key for Somerset in this fixture; they are currently on a run of back to back innings victories, with Hampshire not having played last week. This promises to be something of a clash between form and consistency, with a thrilling few days of county cricket in store.
Somerset’s eleven for this match will look a lot different from the side who fell to defeat by an innings against the same opposition in early April. Craig Overton and Jack Leach have both rediscovered the County Championship form which led to their inclusion in the English Test squad to face the West Indies, the reason they were unavailable for the reverse fixture. Runs for Matt Renshaw, who had yet to join up with the squad for their visit to Southampton, is showing him to be one of this season’s standout overseas players. The return of Tom Banton and Lewis Gregory strengthened the middle order, and the experience of Josh Davey and Jack Brookes was certainly missed. After a poor start to the season, with three consecutive losses, Somerset finally had their strongest XI at their disposal, and have started to turn their season around. They will be hoping to continue this good run of form with a third successive victory.
Up to this point, Hampshire have proven to be one of Division One’s most consistent sides. Their team is not made up of superstars, but instead of hard-working players, from which, in a sense, what you see is what you get. Players such as Kyle Abbott and Mohammed Abbas are clear examples of this. They have proven themselves on the global stage, but for circumstances outside their control, seem to no longer be involved in their nation’s set ups. These are two bowlers, who, in another generation, would have had long, and fruitful, international careers; Pakistan and South Africa’s loss is Hampshire’s gain. James Vince, and to a lesser extent, Liam Dawson, could also fall into this category, although their lack of success for England is more down to their own failures to grasp opportunities presented to them. Hampshire’s team is full of experienced professionals; an approach which proves to be working, as they have lost just once in five matches this season.
After a poor start to the season that was reflected throughout the whole team, it is no coincidence that Somerset have turned their fortunes around when Tom Abell has started piling on the runs. His influence on this Somerset team cannot be overstated, setting the example both on and off the field. Attempting to motivate a side when your last fourscores read 1, 4, 11, and 12 is a seemingly impossible task; Abell has responded by posting four consecutive half-centuries, started off by a career best of 150* against Surrey. The mental strength required to overcome difficult moments in both your batting and captaincy is testament to him. When Abell is fluent with the bat, the rest of his team follow his lead, and Somerset are a force to be reckoned with. If their skipper continues in such good touch, anything is possible for the Taunton-based team.
Currently in the middle of his 14th first class season, Keith Barker shows no sign of letting up. He has taken four or more wickets in four of the five matches up to this point in the season, showing how key he is to the Hampshire attack. When others in the side struggled against Surrey, he managed to come away with respectable figures of 4/80 in the team’s only defeat of the season so far. He has also proven handy with bat, with useful lower order runs, including a swashbuckling 44* off just 36 balls against Kent to set up the declaration. The left-armer has certainly reinvigorated his career since leaving Warwickshire, and he will be hoping to lead Hampshire to their first County Championship Division One title since 1973.
Somerset- Tom Abell (c), Tom Banton, Jack Brooks, Josh Davey, Steve Davies, Lewis Goldsworthy, Lewis Gregory, James Hildreth, Tom Lammonby, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Matt Renshaw, Peter Siddle.
Weather and Conditions
Although the sun will be out for the toss on Thursday morning, it will have been covered by clouds by the time the first ball is bowled. There is unfortunate news for those hoping to enjoy the sun, and maybe a few ciders, down at the Cooper Associates County Ground this weekend, as the cloud looks set to continue throughout the four days. I would also recommend bringing a raincoat if you are attending on Friday, as there is a 40% chance of rain throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
Date: Thursday 19th May to Sunday 22nd May
Ground: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Odds (SkyBet): Somerset 1/1; Hampshire 8/11