The Blast! Are we really still going for this 100 thing?
By Grockle et al
July 5 2018

The Blast starts on Friday for Somerset and 'blasts' through the season briefly leaving a smell of cordite.  With it there is a slight smell of BS from the ECB as they still seem set on their plan to compete with their own product in 2 years time by introducing the '100'.  A sort of hybrid version of what they already have, which no-one else plays or seems to have any intention in playing, geared to introduce the 'game' to a new urban audience who seem to have been living in a cricketless bubble up until now in those urban centres where no cricket is played by the young - allegedly.  It's a strange world we live in. 


For the moment Somerset are involved in the national short format competition that takes about 3 hours to play in the evenings and is a 20 over a side game between the 18 first class counties. It starts for us on Friday with a game against the 'Bristolians' at the County Ground.  Some of the games this year are double headers with the women's Western Storm side who are playing in the Kia Super League (something that disappears when the brave new '100' scheme arrives).  Although both leagues will exist next year that will presently be the county's last involvement in the national shortest format 'premier' competition due to our exclusion from the urban '100' version in 2020.

Somerset have always maintained that we compete in all of our formats.  We have not had a particularly good record of competing in this one in recent years.  Reliance on the 'big' star was pretty evident in the days of Chris Gayle.  With him we had a chance, without him we were mere shadows with poor application and outdated tactics.  Our purchases of the 'stars' has been a little wanting in the last few years.  The raising of expectations and ticket sales with the big names has been succeeded by the purchase of players who are less known or partly injured.  This year we welcome the return of Cory Anderson who is a real asset when fully fit but failed to provide what we wanted last year as he most certainly wasn't and has returned this year with doubt as to whether he is the allrounder we could do with or just the destructive batsman with a dodgy back. Will he bowl at all and if we do use him will the New Zealanders call him back or retrict our use of him?

We have no plans to fill our other international place at least until 'later on in the competition' according to reports of Jason Kerr's statements.  That did not happen last year either and we will find it very very difficult to fill that place should we want to unless we have someone already in the pipeline. There is no indication of that being the case.

We announced early that Lewis Gregory would skipper the T20 side in 2018.  A decision certainly widely accepted as a decent move to motivate and extend a player of some scope.  However, Lewis, it seems, is still undecided about his future with the county. With a home side contract already in front of him, he is still receiving offers from at least four other counties.  No decision has been made by the player, who is NOT in negotiation for more from his present county but is weighing up their final offer with that of others.  Some supporters have questioned the logic of giving a man seemingly not yet fully committed to his present position the role of captain when a final decision might come during this year's Blast competition.

If you add to that the absence of some high performance figures from our pretty unimpressive T20 campaigns  recently, you start to see why we may not sell out our 2018 fixtures the way we have in the past.

Neither Craig Overton or Tim Groenewald start the campaign.  The former is on England duty while the latter has a minor groin issue.  Jack Leach,  though not a major feature of this format, is not available as a sub because of a finger problem that could have been avoided but has dogged his 2018 season so far.

It tends to suggest that we are looking at our young players to bulk up and support this drive for T20 glory.  The batting is very much reliant on the skills of Johann Myburgh, Steve Davies, James Hildreth, Lewis Gregory and Cory Anderson.  Our infill players will be Tom Abell, Eddie Byrom, George Bartlett and Tom Banton being given a 'second bite' in the white ball version after his phenomenal second team batting performances did not allow him to break into red ball first team cricket in the way he would have liked.  Tom Lammonby has been signed for 2 years but is presently captaining the U19 side though he may make an appearance possibly.  Fin Trenouth is also not far from the line up if Kerr sees this as his tournament for blooding new batting talent.  It may become that if we do not produce winning results in the early matches.  It is to some extent what the Blast will become after 2020 for sides like Somerset while the '100' leeches the best players and the media coverage alongside its poorer rival as far as the ECB is concerned.

Bowling is our win or lose area this season.  Without the frugal Groenewald at the start one wonders which of those bowlers available will manage the 'press' overs of 9 to 13.  Max Waller is seen by outside media people as our 'specialist' bowler and his performance with the ball and in the field will be very important to our defence of targets.  Who is going to take the wickets though?  Dom Bess will probably team up with Roelof van der Merwe to provide the other spin options.  Gregory may well have to employ all 3 in his side.  His own 'death' bowling will be a vital aspect of the attack and Josh Davey will be asked to maintain the tighter lines he has been bowling this season to support his skipper and knock a few over. Tom Abell is a seam possibility nowadays and could be a significant member of the side. Pete Trego has already been brought into the 50 over version to provide some variety, though his performances with the bat have been more significant than with the ball. 

Will Somerset experiment with the sheer pace of Jamie Overton in the shorter format?  4 overs of rapidity, used sensibly, can be very effective.  It can also produce masses of runs as batsmen use the pace of the ball to find the boundary.  Jamie hasn't had a huge amount of first team cricket this year as of yet but he does have the advantage that he can also be a destructive batsman so his inclusion in a side does not necessarily require him to bowl 24 balls - but do we have the bowling depth? Is Paul van Meerkenen fit and a valid consideration for this competition.  I believe he is on the mend if not mended and like Josh this may be his chance to move up in the pecking order for the county.

Our tactics in the first few games are crucial and I am not sure we have the resources at our disposal to play the games the way we would like to.  The batting is deep but inexperienced for these short format games.  If the experience can amass runs while bringing along the talented younger batsmen we could hit big scores (though where our explosive big hitters are if Anderson's back gives out I wonder? Johann at the front - Pete later on possibly?)  But can we defend them?  I'm not sure about Dom in this format.  Our seam department is down to it's bare minimum until Tim returns. We will have trouble holding the good T20 sides down to targets under 150 or maybe even under 200.

Lewis marshalling his troops will also be very important.  When Tom was out of the four day and one day formats, the loss of his as a skippper was noticable.  Does  Lewis hold his men in that kind of way?  Can he push them to performing out of their skins when required?  Is his present situation one where that is possible however much people like him and have played with him before?  Can you commit to someone who seems to find it hard to commit himself?

Is this the shape of Somerset T20 to come?  A potential but youthful side being trotted out and taken through their first big game paces to prepare them for the rest of what will be left of a first classs county season?  A 50 over programme which struggles to gain the interest of the central authority who pay it little more than media lip service and a Championship where Somerset miight survive the dilution to fewer counties as financial constraints and competition from stroonger neighbours push some counties over the edge with less financial support from the centre? 


Get it while it is hot people! All may be revealed for 2018 as of Friday afternoon.  An interesting few weeks ahead. 2020? It's a way off yet but will be here sooner than we would probably want.