Somerset's Bob Willis Trophy Campaign Review

It’s been another season to remember for Somerset County Cricket Club.

With the dust now settled on the 2020 campaign, we sat down in Stragglers Coffee House with Head Coach, Jason Kerr to look back on what has been an unusual year for many reasons.

Following another outstanding winter training programme, the players were raring to go, the overseas signings were in place and the cricket season was just a matter of weeks away. Following a successful 2019, there were high hopes in the Somerset camp. However, in March the world changed.

How did Jason deal with what happened?

“Obviously there was a huge degree of uncertainty as to whether we would be playing cricket at all,” he said. “A huge amount of work goes in to planning for a season and obviously that all went out of the window very quickly, and rightly so. There were far more important things going on at the time other than cricket and we had to adapt. There were obviously a lot of questions flying around at the time. Are we going to be playing cricket? Will the season take place? What will it look like? Will I still have a job at the end of this? There was a lot of uncertainty for a lot of people but I think that a lot of credit has to go to the Club and to the people behind the scenes who enabled us to be able to train, and to the ECB as well.”

How did Jason keep his players and staff motivated during the uncertain times that we all found ourselves in?

“I think one of our biggest strengths is the spirit that we have in the dressing room and we really pulled together as a collective remotely and digitally. We had regular communications from a wellbeing perspective and from a social perspective as well. The way everyone adapted to the changing environment around them is a testament to all of the guys. They found their own motivations to keep training and to keep busy and arguably they came back fitter and more energised than they were in March. That they took that opportunity and used it to their advantage is a testament to the group.

“I think the extended break was beneficial to a lot of the players. You can get on to something of a merry-go-round when you’re playing in various competitions all over the world and I think the break gave us all a sense of appreciation. We are extremely fortunate to be doing what we’re doing. Sometimes you can take things for granted and I think it brought a sense of reality to a lot of people. It gave the opportunity to stop and reflect and the guys came back refreshed, energized and more determined to make the most of the opportunities that they’ve got.”

Once the fixtures for the new season were finally confirmed how did you go about getting the squad match-ready?

“There were a significant number of stages to get through including completely different training environments and training differently. The players didn’t have the freedom or luxury of being in all day. They had to learn to adapt to coming in, doing their work and getting out again. It was a really different environment, but for me it gave clarity and purpose and there were some advantages to that. It meant that every time we trained, there had to be a specific purpose to that and it was similar with preparation time. It narrowed the focus slightly.

“At the start of a normal year you’re trying to win three competitions and you give those three formats as much attention as you can, but we were in a shortened season with just two formats. In essence that gives you slightly more direction in your preparation.”

The global situation also had an impact on the arrival of overseas players and meant that Somerset were not able to field Matthew Wade. What impact did that have on the Club?

“With people being unable to travel, the players saw this as an opportunity. The young players who were anticipating playing Second XI cricket at the start of the year felt that they were now closer to playing in the First Team. You could see that determination in their behaviours and their attitudes in training. Once we got into competitive games it was very evident that people were seeing the world slightly differently.

“Inevitably there were places to be filled, but within our practice environment they still had to earn the right to play. Within our Club culture I think it was important that it was done in that way. For me, it was really exciting to know that some of these guys were going to get the opportunity to show what they can do and it was exciting for me to find out more about them as people and cricketers.”

Following lockdown the players had adapted well to the new protocols that were in place and they were ready to hit the ground running when the first match of the season eventually arrived.

First up it was Glamorgan at the Cooper Associates County Ground in the Bob Willis Trophy.

“There’s always an incredible feeling of anticipation going in to the first game of the season,” Jason said. “We had prepared brilliantly and I was incredibly impressed by how the guys went about it. You can do all the preparation in the world, but you never know how things are going to unfold on the day.

“Steve Davies was outstanding and to see the way that we operated as a bowling unit was exceptional. Add to that Tom Abell leading by example and that’s why we got off to a great start. There were some excellent individual performances in that game, but collectively as a team you could see that we had started to grow from where we were last year. A huge sense of unity was there already and even without the crowd there the guys created an incredible intensity.

“Obviously there was the unfortunate incident that saw George Bartlett taking a blow to the head, but it was brilliant to see Ben Green come in and take the opportunity to show what he could do. The reality of professional sport at every level is that someones misfortune often provides someone else with an opportunity. What bodes well for us is that whenever we have seen a player miss out, someone else has come in and shown an extremely high level of performance. That just goes to show that we have strength in depth.”

Following the comprehensive 289 run win over Glamorgan, Somerset travelled to Northamptonshire.

Despite receiving criticism from certain areas after being bowled out for 166 in the first innings, Somerset secured another comprehensive win in a game that finished inside two days.

“If you watch a game from afar or if you follow it on social media you don’t get the full picture,” said Jason. “It was an interesting surface up there and the fact that the game only lasted two days was in part due to that but also down to some absolutely outstanding bowling and catching from us. That was some of the best bowling I have ever seen from Craig Overton and as a unit we scrapped for everything to post a score. There were lower order runs that were incredibly significant and small partnerships played a huge part in that win. Hildy and Bants only added about 30 before lunch but in the context of the game that was massive.

“We made over 200 in our second innings which was outstanding. The Overton twins took an aggressive approach and when those two are striking it like they did that day it puts the opposition very much on the back foot. They made the bowlers change their lines which took the surface out of it a bit and we never looked back from that point.

“It was great to see Jack Brooks bowl so well in that game. He hadn’t had much of an opportunity up to that point so to see him step up was great. It really showed that the four of them as a unit were a match for anyone.”

For Somerset’s third match the team headed to Edgbaston to take on Warwickshire.

Unfortunately, weather denied Somerset an almost certain victory, as Jason explains.

“The weather is something that you can’t control. I said that to the guys after the game because you could sense the frustration in the dressing room. For me, it’s important to understand that it’s part of a process. What was important to take away from that game was the brand of cricket that we once again displayed.

“To be so dominant with the ball and to show the kind of resolve that we always talk about in the form of Steve Davies’ innings was good to see. Jamie also showed what he can do with the bat and I’m sure he’ll get more First Class hundreds along the way.

“At the end of the day, the players put us in a position to win the game and that’s where we want to be.”

Following the frustration of being denied victory at Edgbaston by the rain, Somerset’s next match in the Bob Willis Trophy saw local rivals Gloucestershire travel to the Cooper Associates County Ground.

“This was an outstanding team performance,” said Jason. “For me, it showed exactly where we are as a division one side. It was a performance that showed how good the guys are with the ball and we also demonstrated that we can grind the opposition down with the bat.

“It was great to see Abes and George get hundreds and it was something special to see Tom Lammonby get his first one. It was really good to see him get his maiden First Class hundred and his maiden First Class wicket in the same game. He had a very good year and he’s an outstanding cricketer who could very well go on to be a star of the future.”

After the 314 run win over Gloucestershire, Somerset travelled to Worcestershire knowing that a win would see them qualify for the Bob Willis Trophy final.

“That game was a real test of where we were as a side,” Jason explained. “It was the top two going at it and we knew that we had to win the game. To play like we did at New Road on a challenging surface was impressive.

“The whole team operated really well as a unit and then Tom Lammonby played what was described by their coach as one of the best innings he’d ever seen in First Class cricket. That then gave us the opportunity to bowl them out. We had to work really hard and they dug in really deep, but we stuck to our task brilliantly and got the result that I felt we deserved.

“I don’t think we felt extra pressure with it being a must win game, but I did feel that it would be a good test of character which the guys passed with flying colours. To go there and perform like we did when there was so much at stake was brilliant.”

Somerset faced Essex in the final at Lord’s but the team from Chelmsford claimed the trophy by the narrowest of margins.

“The players have been outstanding all season,” reflected Jason. “It was a hard fought draw at Lord’s in the final. It was an incredibly competitive game of cricket and neither side backed down. It was a true reflection of the two best teams in Division One.

“Obviously we’re all disappointed but the overriding emotion is one of pride. Pride in the way that the guys have played this season and certainly in the way that they conducted themselves during the five days at Lord’s.”

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Next MatchSomerset V Derbyshire Falcons

09/07/2022 19:00 - The Cooper Associates County Ground