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From the Archive: Jason Blows Leicestershire Away

In conjunction with partners Cooper Associates, Somerset County Cricket Club are regularly delving into extensive Club Archives to look back on some of our proudest moments.

Today we travel back to May 1999 and a match that saw current Head Coach, Jason Kerr make headlines as Somerset beat Leicestershire by nine wickets.

1999 was an important year for domestic county cricket. It was the final year before the formation of the two-division system, and all 18 counties were desperate to finish in the top half of the table in order to ensure their place at red-ball cricket’s top table the following year.

“There was a significant change within the game at the time,” Jason explained when we spoke to him earlier this week. “There had been a lot of campaigning for county cricket to change over the years and it had gotten to a point where things were actually happening. In previous years it felt like a lot of the later games were dead rubbers, so to be in a position where every single game mattered made every game feel like a cup final.”

On May 19th, it was a strong Leicestershire side that arrived at Taunton. They featured the likes of Chris Lewis, Jimmy Ormond, Michael Kasprowicz, Paul Nixon and Aftab Habib and would eventually finish third in the table, one place ahead of Somerset. However, it was the side from the West Country ,and one player in particular who dominated this match.

The visitors won the toss and elected to field, but Somerset posted a first innings total of 453 all out thanks to centuries from Peter Bowler (138) and Mike Burns (109). There was also a useful half century from Rob Turner. Ormond was the pick of the bowlers, claiming five for 85.

Andy Caddick and Matt Bulbeck had reduced the visitors to 83 for three when the ball was thrown to Jason. By the time he had finished, Leicestershire were all out for 173 and he had first innings figures of seven for 23 from 10.5 overs.

Jason picks up the story: “I remember that we were at Trent Bridge the game before,” he said. “Although I batted quite well in that game I was struggling bowling-wise at the time. That meant that from a confidence point of view I wasn’t going into the Leicestershire game where I wanted to be. I remember thinking to myself that I had nothing to lose, but when I got out there everything just went really well. I had five wickets before tea and then managed to finish them off right after the break.

“It was one of those spells that you dream about and things just went my way. Everything just clicked and I swung the ball that day more than I did on a normal day and bowled with good pace. It all happened quite quickly.

“That Leicestershire team was a very good side. Aftab Habib was having a really good year, James Whitaker was captaining the side, Kasprowicz was arguably in his prime and Chris Lewis was an England all rounder. It was a really good team but we played better over the four days.

“I remember walking off at tea and it was a great feeling. I also remember Tres dropping Kasprowicz after tea, so in my head it should be seven for 19. Tres dropped him and it went through for four. He made up for it though because he caught him off my next delivery, but he still cost me four runs! I’ve never forgiven him for that!

“I’d come back from shoulder surgery and I’d been struggling to play a full season, which was really frustrating. I think 1999 was the year that I managed to string my most number of performances together and I felt like I was a part if the side. I was incredibly fortunate to be involved for as long as I was, given the amount of injuries that I had. I’m incredibly proud of what I achieved as a player in terms of being able to play for that long. I don’t feel though that my performances showed my true capabilities as a cricketer. My experiences as a player have certainly helped me on my journey as a coach.”

How good was that Somerset side and who were the big characters?

“Jamie Cox was obviously the captain and he was brilliant as a leader. He was always incredibly supportive and he saw something in me as a cricketer. He always encouraged and supported me and gave me the opportunity when he was captain. We had Caddy to and he hated anyone else getting wickets! I think he was more surprised than anything else that I’d managed to get a few! I’m sure he was pleased for me though.

“You look back now and you look at the quality of players that we’ve had over the years and you wonder how we haven’t done better in the championship. As I say, in 1999 we had Caddy, who was one of the best bowlers in the world, we had Mushtaq for a period of time and we had the likes of Jamie Cox and an emerging Trescothick. You look back at some of the greats who have represented the Club and it’s surprising that we’ve not had more success.”

How would you describe your career at that point?

“I had a lot of injuries in my career and I had some inconsistent performances. As a player I also struggled massively when it came to self belief. The best feeling was knowing that I’d made a positive contribution to a team win. Cricket is a team game played by individuals and you want to feel that you are worth your place in the side. To make a significant contribution and to help the team win was a really great feeling.”

Is that match the fondest memory that you have as a player?

“I made some valuable contributions in one-day cricket, but I think that performance was my best for Somerset. It was a career best and it contributed to a win. There is another game that I remember though. In that game as I was walking to the crease Peter Bowler told me that if I got out he would kill me. I managed to save the game and that helped to prevent one of his old sides from winning the championship, so he was quite pleased about that.

“When I look back on my career, it was a very proud moment, especially when you get the victory at the end of a hard four days. To be able to celebrate with your teammates knowing that you’ve contributed is huge.

“I’ve still got the ball and I was really grateful that the Club got me a tankard as well. I got five wickets against the touring West Indies side, but that was my fist five-for in the championship. Peter Anderson got me a silver tankard to mark the occasion and I still treasure that today.”

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