Somerset won 21 matches in all three competitions, but the T20 campaign deserves the most column inches. A remarkable campaign in which only Surrey won at Taunton, Somerset then beat their most hated rivals twice en route to singng Blackbird on that wonderful July evening. Even 2022 Blast winners Hampshire were left six points behind in the South Group-whose top four again defeated all four northern sides to reach Finals Day.
Craig Overton and Matt Henry produced the opening bowling partnership of the tournament and Will Smeed, Tom Banton and Tom Kohler-Cadmore all surpassed 460 runs. The main men got the job done, often not requiring the middle-order with the bat, just Ben Green to pick up 30 wickets in his self-confessed slip cordon of long-on to cow corner. A man who literally bleeds (or plays on with dislocated fingers) for Somerset – Roelof van der Merwe and another shrewd Kiwi signing – Ish Sodhi shared 21 further wickets between them.
The latter two contributed a fair few of Overton’s 22 catches – a professional T20 tournament record worldwide for any player ever – including wicketkeepers!
Yet it was two catches from different players in the final that will live longest in Somerset fans’ memories. Kasey Aldridge came in for Shoaib Bashir for the final and took the key wicket of Adam Rossington – a contender with Jordan Cox for one of Finals Day’s best ever catches. TKC’s left mitt made the final moment extra special, but even he admitted during the celebrations and again at the end of season awards do that he “made the catch look harder than it was by not moving particularly quickly, anyone else would have got two hands to it!”
I will mention more on the winner of myriad awards later, but the T20 side is a side the country’s best young player (PCA award winner) James Rew cannot yet break into. That is a sign of serious strength and without an overseas batter even inside the top eight.
Rew: “I was just trying to stay in the side at the start of the year.”
Tom Abell: “He formed the backbone of our team.”
Jason Kerr: “I have a tough job to keep his feet on the ground.”
These three quotes sum up the incredible role the teenager ended up playing in a year that saw former England wicketkeeper Steve Davies play just twice in his 38th year. Rew’s consistency with bat and gloves effectively ended Davies’ 21st year of professional cricket early.
Jack Brooks left too, but not officially retired yet
Eventually on the 13th October, Somerset fans got the news they desired. Gregory was not replacing Steven Mullaney as Notts captain. Somerset’s Vitality Blast winning Captain pledged his future to the Club until at least the end of the 2025 campaign.
LV= CC: 7th-13 points behind Lancs in 5th
Vitality Blast: CHAMPIONS!
LV= CC: James Rew, 1086 @57.16, SR 50.05, HS 221
Vitality Blast: Will Smeed 523 runs at 30.76, SR 175.5, HS 94 @ Bristol. Closely followed by TKC & Banton.
RLODC: Andy Umeed 613 at 87.57, SR 97.46
LV= CC: Lewis Gregory 34 at 21.55, economy rate 3.52 BB 7/84
Vitality Blast: Matt Henry 31, (average 13.26, economy 7.85) his 4-24 in the final just taking him past Ben Green’s 30 wickets (plus more runs than Henry) which earnt him Somerset’s white-ball player of the season gong again.
RLODC: Little to shout about; Jack Brooks, loanee Danny Lamb and Ned Leonard all took 8, but the former at the best average and economy rate; 31.88 and 5.54.
Player of the season: James Rew
I have said enough about Rew on podcasts, commentary and reports over the year, here’s just a few facts on the golden season of the PCA Men’s Young Player of the Year:
Although born in London, James Rew was brought up in the West Country and joined the Somerset Player Pathway at Under 10 level, having been schooled in Taunton.
Among his five hundreds was a brilliant double ton against Hampshire, the youngest Somerset batter to achieve the feat in first-class cricket. That knock took him to six career Championship hundreds, the joint-most for a teenager ever.
Third highest runscorer in Championship Division One after Tom Westley and Josh Bohannon.
Rew was also one of only three batters to face more than 2,000 deliveries (Nick Gubbins and Westley being the others) in Division One.
Breakthrough Player: Andy Umeed
Two men signed in the last 18 months with the intention of being red-ball opening batters ended up producing better returns vs the white ball. Both were also surprising contributors in two other facets also. One showed he can bowl, on the rare couple occasions he was thrown it and the other – Sean Dickson was given the poisoned chalice of the One-Day Cup captaincy when Ben Green was called away at the last minute.
Andy Umeed was the former and whether he bowls legbreaks or offbreaks (both were displayed in the Championship and MBODC) they are a useful weapon to supplement his now proven batting. I will admit that after failures vs Devon, Cornwall and Warwickshire I would have dropped him and pushed Bartlett, Rew and Dickson higher up a stacked top six so the best players got to face more deliveries…
Paul Tweddle stuck with Umeed, whose lowest score across his next eight innings for Somerset was 34 in the very next game, he just got better and better in a Somerset shirt. In fact across his remaining 12 innings for Somerset this season he only once did not reach 20 and that was the final match of the season farce when Somerset were 37-6.
He was topscorer in the group stages of the MBODC and only just pipped by three runs by Ed Barnard overall (who played one extra match and had an inferior average to Somerset’s Glaswegian bat). Three 50-over centuries, an average of 87.57 and best of 172* enough said and deservedly given another go in the first-class side, this time at number four in all three September matches.
Could have done better: Tom Abell
Captain Tom will admit this himself and does not need me to ramble on about this. Abell came into the season with injury concerns which guttingly ruled him out of a much deserved England Lions call to Bangladesh in the Spring.
Thus he barely bowled until a superb 4/54 v Kent in September showed the fourth or fifth seamer Somerset had been missing.
Ninth in the club’s end of season Championship batting averages (31.1) could be a career low for him, but all should be aware he was not helped by a struggling opening partnership seeing him often coming to the wicket very early, and being such a selfless skipper moving himself around the top order. In September alone he batted at numbers two, three and five.
Joe Root – England’s best test batter – bats at number four and does not budge now whatever combination of Brook/Stokes/Bairstow want to do and England shape their side around him, maybe Somerset could benefit from the same with Abell at three or four, wherever he deep down, selfishly feels most comfortable.
Such was the dominance of the top three, he was barely needed to bat in the T20s, four not outs the joint most across Somerset’s record breaking group stage and he did not notch a 50, but still finished as the fourth leading run scorer in the side.
Jake Ball is expected to be announced as Jack Brooks’ replacement shortly. The 32-year-old did not bowl well at Taunton in June (0/32 & 1/106) but it is hoped he can put injury concerns behind him and take some of the load away from Overton, Gregory, Davey plus an overseas bowling signing (ideally Matt Henry-“I’d give whatever it takes to get Henners back” Abell told our ‘Bright Cider Life’ podcast).
It would be great to see Sonny Baker and Alfie Ogborne back fit for next April, supplemented by an improved left-arm angle from JT Langridge after his latest England U19s experiences (they play in India in November before the Under-19 Men’s World Cup in Sri Lanka from January 13th. Selection for that World Cup will be announced in December.)
Goldsworthy and Banton should fill George Bartlett’s shoes, no other batting signings required, overseas should concentrate on seam-bowling in all-formats, all season, especially if Craig Overton gets near the England side(s) again.
Bear in mind that Jack Leach missed all but six CC matches of the season (yes he would have been with England during the Ashes but would have hopefully played in the MBODC and all September’s CC fixtures otherwise) Bashir did a decent job filling his large shoes (and vdM’s too in the latter stages of the Blast).
Mixed as always-as close to 10/10 for the T20 Blast you can get without anything ever being perfect. Both other competitions have room for improvement…maybe averages to an 8/10 season? You decide and feel free to tweet/X me @HarryEverett_14