Where: Taunton, Somerset
Ins: Dean Elgar (Overseas, South Africa), Steven Davies (Surrey) and George Bartlett (Academy)
Out: Alex Burrows (released) and Chris Rogers (retired, joined coaching team)
Key man: Craig Overton
Last year: Championship 3rd, RLODC Q/F, T20 Blast 9th
2017 Odds: Championship 8/1, RLODC 12/1, T20 Blast 14/1
Our West-Country correspondent Dan Kingdom hopes his Somerset side will be celebrating a successful season come September following a near miss in the Championship in 2016. He pens his views below.
After exceeding expectations last season with an incredibly near miss in the County Championship, coupled with a close RLODC semi-final defeat to Warwickshire, Somerset fans are hoping that the club can win its first major trophy in twelve years in 2017.
Tom Abell is the man charged with leading the team to their first ever County Championship title, with the talented 23-year-old batsman taking over the captaincy from Chris Rogers in a move that raised a few eyebrows. Despite his youth, Director of Cricket Matt Maynard is confident that Abell is already mature enough to lead the side effectively, and he will have Rogers there to help him – the now-retired Australian has been recruited as a batting consultant until 30th June.
It is Dean Elgar who will be taking up the mantle of overseas player. The South African opening batsman had a lean spell with Somerset in 2013, but since then he has improved significantly, securing a regular spot in his country’s test side. He will open the batting with club legend Marcus Trescothick, who will be playing his 25th season with Somerset, while Tom Abell will drop down to number three to give him some time to clear his head after leading the side in the field.
Somerset’s other big winter signing is England wicketkeeper, Steven Davies. He will deepen the side’s 4-day batting line-up, while also adding extra firepower at the top of the limited-overs sides. However, fans will hope that Ryan Davies, the club’s other wicketkeeper, will continue to get chances having ended 2016 strongly.
There are encouraging signs coming from the club’s young bowling attack. Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton recently starred for MCC in the Champion County match, including a hat-trick for the latter. Jamie Overton had a good season last year before injury; if he stays fit this could be the year he realises his potential. And offspinner Dom Bess burst onto the scene late last season with 13 wickets from two matches. He is sure to get more chances in 2017, especially if the Taunton pitch continues to favour spin.
The only concern comes, ironically, from Somerset’s 2016 player of the year Jack Leach. The left-arm spinner took 65 wickets at 22 last season, but he has been forced to alter his bowling action after a small kink was found during a routine ECB test. Recent signs have been encouraging, but it will take a huge effort for him to match last season’s performance. If he does, an England call-up cannot be far away.
Somerset’s t20 cricket was a disaster last season, with just three wins and a bottom-of-the-table finish to show for their efforts. Steve Davies will improve the side, but with Maynard quiet on the subject of a t20 overseas player, it could be another struggle unless the quick bowling significantly improves and more contributions are made with the bat by players such as Jim Allenby and Peter Trego. It is probably the RLODC that is Somerset’s best chance of one-day success, after topping their group in last year’s competition and having shown good 50-over form in pre-season.
But it is the County Championship that the supporters really want, and 2017 probably represents Somerset’s best chance in years of securing the elusive trophy.
County Championship: 3rd
T20 Blast: 7th
You can follow Dan on Twitter @DanKingdom96