With the 2018 Specsavers County Championship well underway we thought we’d have a rundown of the various teams’ histories. The first team under the spotlight are Somerset. Currently third in Division 1 of the Championship, Somerset will be looking to push for their first ever title this year; surprising when you consider how consistently strong the county has been in First Class competition over the recent years.
Sam Dyer, Somerset Superfan and Badger, gives us his All Time best XI of Somerset Players.
I am honoured to present my all-time Somerset XI. Some of these choices were extremely simple, while others required a great deal of thought. In particular, having decided to limit myself to only two overseas players, the exclusion of the likes of Joel Garner, Graeme Smith, and Ricky Ponting were tough decisions to make. Without further ado, here it is.
Opening the batting, one of the easiest choices to make. A true legend of cricket in Somerset, Tres will be looking to continue banging out the centuries for his birth county in 2018, some 25 years after his debut, after claiming the all-time record for First Class centuries for Somerset last season. He is so much of a hero at the club that he already has a stand named after him at the County Ground, and he has just been awarded a second testimonial year. He might have been given the captaincy in this side, if it weren’t for an incident I witnessed in which he asked the crowd for ideas on how to dismiss the Sussex batsmen during a particularly frustrating partnership.
The man from whom Trescothick claimed the aforementioned record, Gimblett still holds the record for most FC runs for Somerset. With these two opening there is little worry of being tied down early on, and the boundaries are likely to be flowing alongside the cider from the first ball of the day. Gimblett also provides a bowling option with his right arm mediums. He also has part of the County Ground named after him, with Gimblett’s Hill being an extremely popular location for fans on sunny days.
Brian Rose (c)
A somewhat calming influence at 3 in case of an early wicket. Brian Rose showed himself capable of facing off against even the most terrifying of bowling attacks when he played for England against the infamous 1980s West Indians, performing admirably until issues with his eyesight forced him home early. I’ve given him the captaincy both because he led the county to our first ever trophies in the form of both the Gillette Cup and the John Player League in 1979, and also for his declaration on 1 for 0 after 1 over in the Benson & Hedges Cup in the same year. Anyone with enough bottle to do that has earned the skipper’s post in my opinion.
The first of my two overseas players, and also the first player in the team to not have been either born or schooled within county borders. Sir Viv will continue the assault started by the openers with his trademark Antiguan swagger. Along with Joel Garner, Viv was often seen striding along the streets of Taunton town centre during his years with the club and became well known to the locals.
A return to modern day, Hildreth is perhaps the best cricketer of his generation to not receive international recognition. A match-winning century on a broken ankle against Nottinghamshire to keep Somerset in the hunt for a maiden Championship title in 2016 showed the mettle he is often accused of lacking. He also made his career best 303* against Warwickshire in the first game I ever watched at Taunton. Having been schooled at Millfield School near Glastonbury, Hildreth is another local lad.
Craig Kieswetter (wk)
The Saffer-born keeper may not have been finest gloveman to ever grace the County Ground, but his batting makes up for it. A Man of the Match performance for England in the 2010 World T20 final ended with a skip down the track only to leave a straight one before Maxwell had so much as played a reverse sweep for Victoria, he was so far ahead of the trend as to not even be recognised for his innovation. He was arguably an even better batsman in red ball cricket, mixing his crashing cover drives with distinctively upright forward defensives. He also shared a behemoth 318 run unbroken partnership with fellow Old Millfieldian Hildreth in the game mentioned above, ending on 150* himself. His career came to an unfortunate end after a Broad-esque facial injury left him with permanent impairment to his eyesight in one eye, but even then he managed to score runs both for Somerset and in the Ram Slam in South Africa before making the decision to retire and become a pro golfer instead.
A man who makes it into plenty of international all time XIs, Botham was capable of winning a game single-handedly with either bat or ball, as he demonstrated on many occasions for both England and Somerset. Though his time at Somerset came to a somewhat frosty end in a row with then captain Peter Roebuck, he is undoubtedly a legend of the club, and is another player in this team whose named adorns architecture at the County Ground, with the Ian Botham Stand standing on the banks of the River Tone. Yet another local lad, having grown up in Yeovil, Botham also played football for Scunthorpe United and Yeovil Town, so is sure to boss the pre-game warm-up.
Wellard is purportedly in this team for his seam bowling prowess which earned him over 1600 FC wickets at a little over 24 apiece. However, it’s his batting which has secured him a spot in this team ultimately. His batting which would have made Chris Lynn do a double-take. Wellard was famed for his six-hitting ability and was for many years the only player to have hit over 50 sixes in a single county season, a feat he managed on 4 separate occasions. The man to finally equal this feat comes in one place ahead of him in this team. Wellard also scored over a quarter of his career runs in sixes.
The spin option is provided by the second of my overseas players. Mushtaq Ahmed played for Somerset at the height of his international career, and before he played for any other county sides (so hands off Sussex, he’s ours!). He performed fantastically, earning a spot in Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in his penultimate season for the club. Now two decades since then, it must be considered that he is at least partially responsible for the riches of spin bowling currently being experienced in the West Country.
Caddick is a member of the illustrious (albeit not that exclusive) club of foreign-born players to play for England. The players’ pavilion at the County Ground is also named after him, showing the esteem in which he is held at his old county. Caddick will be taking the new ball from one end, and he has the potential to quickly rip through the top order. Caddick also has a First Class 9-for to his name, having taken 9-32 against Lancashire in 1993, collecting a total of 12 wickets in the match.
Andre van Troost
Van Troost completes the line-up, providing extreme pace, even if at the expense of any semblance of control over line or length. Mark Butcher once said that van Troost had produced the quickest spell of bowling he’d ever faced – which is quite some praise coming from a man who faced up against the likes Curtley Ambrose and Ian Bishop in Tests. Being Dutch-born there are no worries regarding eligibility, at least until Brexit happens. Van Troost takes the new ball at the other end from Caddick.
We hope you enjoyed Sam’s article and if you would like to see more of Sam’s commentary on all things cricket, please follow him on twitter at @MullDyer. Also check out the wonderful cricket stats account The Cricket Walrus for all your irrelevant cricket statistic needs.