The first preseason game was the definition of damp squib seeing a total of just a couple hours of play (25.5 overs) in three days. No play in either of day two or three. Yet this was still long enough for Sean Dickson to show his class and excite the Somerset faithful with an almost run-a-ball 80 before the premature, rain influenced, declaration.
Tom Lammonby’s duck would be harsh to drop him because of, but with so little preseason action and such competition for places, a bit like England’s top seven, there are multiple batters that fancy his spot alongside Dickson for the season opener.
Andy Umeed and Steve Davies will likely miss out, despite the latter’s silky 50 vs Glamorgan in preseason. George Bartlett may benefit from his great mate Tom Banton’s injury for the fifth or sixth spot. Preseason game three in Bristol was reduced from three to two days, then (sensibly with the amount of wet this week) completely canned as this piece went to print on the 31st March.
Catching up with Alfie Ogborne on day one he waxed lyrical about Shoaib Bashir. The young spinner could play more than expected in his first year in the West Country with Jack Leach cementing his spot as England’s number one spinner with better returns under Ben Stokes’ leadership in an Ashes year, Max Waller into a non-playing testimonial year and Roelof van der Merwe ageing (despite his SAT20 heroics!)
No Rilee Rossouw, could be a blow…?
The South African’s most recent top franchise league performance (PSL8) showed why he continues to be sought-after worldwide.(11 games, 453 runs, 45.30 average, 171.59 strike rate). He helped get the Multan Sultans to the final and top-scored with 52 as they lost to the Qalandars. He also broke his own record for the new fastest century in PSL history off 41 balls. But with Kohler-Cadmore coming in (who himself had some very impressive PSL innings-one springing to mind which made former Somerset bat Babar Azam’s becalmed innings look average) Rossouw will be less missed than feared.
But there will be a man who was due to join Somerset three years ago but for a controversial January 2018! Cam Bancroft has played 10 Test matches for his country and scored a competition-leading 945 runs at 59.06 for Western Australia in their 2022/23 Sheffield Shield winning campaign. With four centuries and one half-century, he was nearly 300 runs above Daniel Drew (656 runs) in second place in the standings.
He also provides another option with the gloves, though is probably fifth in the pecking order after Rew, Banton, TKC and S. Davies! The top-order batter will be available for the opening four matches of the Championship before Matt Henry arrives, though not a like-for-like replacement, it makes sense with skipper Tom Abell likely out for the first month with the injury he frustratingly sustained whilst on his first full England tour in Bangladesh last month.
Bancroft of course has plenty of experience of early-season English conditions having previously represented Gloucestershire (scoring 877 runs at 33.73 in 16 first-class outings) and Durham (909 runs at 39.52 in 14 matches).
Over the winter the scoreboard and livestream have had a revamp. Both were tested to various degrees of success in preseason, but expect a much glossier output for the Warwickshire game starting Maundy Thursday.
It would be remiss to omit mention of the much-criticised sandy outfield, sat with Worcestershire-esque puddles on it in preseason, but this should eventually see better drainage across the summer…hopefully!
Ins: Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Yorkshire), Sean Dickson (Durham), Shoaib Bashir (Berkshire)
Outs: Marchant de Lange (Gloucestershire), Ollie Sale (Northants), Max Waller (Released testimonial this year)
Overseas players: Matt Henry (11 May-31 July, NZ) Peter Siddle (until end of July) & Cameron Bancroft (first 4 matches) (Australia)
Tom Kohler-Cadmore is an exciting multi-format bat who can also keep. He tantalised Somerset fans with his straight hitting into the Marcus Trescothick Pavilion last July (100 in a Yorkshire first-innings total of 276). He batted three that day but in this star-studded Somerset top six I’d expect him to bat five or six behind Abell (when fit) and Goldsworthy, in an interchangeable spot with Bartlett/Banton as the other destructive middle-order player. That’s in red ball cricket, in T20 he will likely be at three or four replacing Rossouw, after Smeed and Banton, before Abell.
The former Wisden Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year met up with his new side briefly in November but has spent most of the last few months jet-setting around T20/10 leagues. Worryingly he only played one game-the season opener of the Lanka Premier League before eventually withdrawing following a diving catch during that sole appearance. The discomfort is believed to be linked to the concussion he suffered earlier last year in PSL7.
His three-year contract is technically for all-formats but realistically he sadly may never play for Somerset in 50 over cricket as the ECB’s current schedule disallows.
Player to Watch
Sonny Baker. Now fitter and stronger after back issues ravaged last summer. The in-swinging yorker clips that went viral seem eons ago now. The most ridiculous match of cricket in Somerset’s entire last summer is probably the Durham 50-over game. Sonny’s 6-46 was completely overshadowed by Ben Green’s 157 off 84 balls. (Green also took the only other two Durham wickets that were not run outs, and fittingly Green and Baker were the two batting at the end-nine short when the skipper fell with three balls remaining-a truly two man effort somehow still in vain.)
It will be hard for him to break into all three teams, such are the seam bowling resources in the West Country but expect him to take his chance. The battery of Davey/Brooks/Gregory/Overton/Siddle/Henry are all 30+ now and injury prone, so if Baker can edge ahead of Leonard/Ogborne/maybe even Aldridge then he should get overs in the first team, white-ball being his strongest suit at present.
Strongest/potential XIs in all 3 formats: (in my opinion)
Abell/Bancroft first 4 games whilst likely still injured.
Rew WK so neither Bartlett/Banton?
Davey/Brooks/Henry when arrives to swap for Bancroft.
Baker/Davey/Brooks/none of these +Green in at 7 if Gregory fit to bat & bowl
ODC (pending forced unavailability’s which frustratingly change mid-season):
Davies WK (presume Rew picked up?)
How they’ll fare
Predictions for Somerset are always tricky…always the bridesmaid never the bride…
TKC and Dickson coming in only strengthen an already strong top seven and one of the best middle-lower orders in the country-Somerset don’t really have a bowler who can’t bat. Josh Davey used to open for Middlesex, Jack Leach has a test 92, Pete Siddle has test 50s…and all three of them will likely at times bat at 11 for Somerset this year!
The great strength in depth (reckon about a genuine 29-man squad now) should help massively with pushing for places. & yet again the One-Day Cup side looks ridiculously strong…surely they can’t be as poor as 2022 again in the format they won at Lords in 2019…?!
Thursday 6th April 11:00 Warwickshire Home CC
Season Odds (Skybet)
County Champions: 7/1
Twenty20 Blast: 8/1
One-Day Cup – N/A ☹