Vitality County Championship Match Preview – Somerset v Essex

Vitality County Championship Match Preview – Somerset v Essex

A west v east contest awaits us in round four of the Vitality County Championship as Somerset hosts Essex at Taunton. Last week Somerset held off Worcestershire on the final day to secure a draw, while Essex are fresh off a rain-affected draw with Durham at Chester-le-Street. Both teams are unbeaten after four games, but Essex are one of only two clubs to have forced two wins so far this season.

The hosts have made a solid start to Division One life this year and looked to have added some solidity to the batting talent. Tom Lammonby has made an excellent transition to the number three berth having spent much of his life as an opener, with 373 runs at 74.60 this season. Overseas signing Matt Renshaw has also made a solid start with 245 runs at 40.83. Lammonby is the only player to have gone on to the three-figure mark, and that was an even 100 against Surrey. It has been a story of steady rather than spectacular contributions. It has also been pleasing to see Tom Banton starting to show his undoubted talent with fifties in his last two games.

Seamer Kasy Aldridge has led from the front with the ball with 11 wickets at 21.09, alongside new skipper Lewis Gregory, who has the same number but at 32.72. There has been little wicket-taking support from the rest of the bowlers so far and overseas signing Miguel Pretorius has been disappointing, with only four wickets in 3 games at an average of 95.25. Shoaib Bashir has been economical rather than threatening. Still, it has been pleasing to see him getting game time so far, although Jack Leach has recently made his comeback in the 2nd XI and may not be far away from 1st XI action, presenting a conundrum for the Somerset coaching staff.

The visitors may be relatively unchanged going into this game, with skipper Tom Westley expected to return to the side after missing the Durham game to be at the birth of his second child. His replacement, Nick Browne took his chance with both hands, making an excellent 184. This should create quite a selection headache for the Essex coaching staff as the rest of the top order have been in excellent form this season. They have also played musical keepers as they have had some bad luck with injuries to their first and second-choice keepers, which resulted in Yorkshire’s Harry Duke being brought in on an emergency loan for the Durham game. It is unknown whether Adam Rossington or Michael Pepper have sufficiently recovered to take their place behind the stumps.

The bowling trio of Sam Cook, Jamie Porter, and Shane Snater have been doing their usual thing with 52 wickets between them so far and they have taken an incredible 75% of Essex’s wickets between them. Simon Harmer has lacked his usual penetration with eight at 49.25, but provided his usual economy. With conditions looking overcast for all four days, the seam bowling trio should remain a handful, despite Taunton’s (a.k.a Ciderabad) reputation for favouring spin bowlers.

This should be a hard-fought context as both teams are tough to beat. The teams are evenly matched, especially in the batting department, but Essex should be slight favourites, with the edge in the seam bowling department.

Key Players

Sam Cook and Jamie Porter are among the best new ball pairings in the country and should be dangerous again, and the absence of Sam Cook may have been crucial in forcing the win against Kent. The experiment with the Kookaburra ball for four rounds of the County Championship divided opinion, with one win produced in the first two rounds of games. However, the weather was also an important factor in a significant proportion of those turning into draws. Still, it is not just to prepare the current England players for overseas tours but to identify future England bowlers who have the skills to perform at the international level. Sam Cook was often dismissed as a good county-level bowler who lacked the skillset for the next level, but he has made important people in the selection group at the ECB sit up and take notice.

With the bat, Tom Lammonby is having an excellent season and is rated highly by some judges, having seemingly found his home at number three. In what looks like being tricky overhead conditions, they will need Australian test opener Matt Renshaw to continue his solid start. Kasey Aldridge has had an excellent season with the ball, but will need the likes of Craig Overton to provide support if the hosts are to take the honours here.

Team news:

Somerset squad: TBC

Essex squad: TBC

Weather and conditions:

All four days look overcast in Taunton, with some threat of showers at points throughout the four days. Temperatures may not be particularly high, so with the expected overhead conditions and a Dukes ball, this could give the bowlers plenty to work with.  

Date: 3rd – 6th May 2024

Time: 11am

Ground: County Ground, Taunton

Odds (Sky Bet): Somerset (6/5) ;  Essex (4/6)


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