From the Archive: Johann's debut

The latest article in our “From the Archive” series sees us travel back to 2014.

Yorkshire were the visitors to the Cooper Associates County Ground in April that year when Johann Myburgh made his County Championship debut for Somerset.

Johann began his Somerset career in that match as the County’s main spinner and batted at seven.

However, he made an instant impact by scoring 91 in Somerset’s innings and taking three wickets in the match.

For the match scorecard click here

We spoke to him this week to discuss the match and he began by outlining how he arrived in Taunton.

“It mainly came about because I knew Dave Nosworthy,” he said. “I’d played under him previously at the Titans and at Canterbury, and Somerset needed an experienced player. I was available at the time and I met up with Andy Hurry and Marcus Trescothick for a bit of a chat and it just came about from there.

“It came as a bit of a surprise when Dave gave me the call, but I ended up signing for one year at first. I knew that I would have to work really hard to get in to the first team and it was made clear that I would have to work my way in to that team.

“From a batting point of view Somerset had some really good batsmen, but they were just maybe lacking a bit of experience and they needed a bit of backup. It was also made clear to me that the opportunity would be there if I could perform.”

How did Johann feel about batting in the middle order and being the main spin option?

“It was a little bit strange to be batting at seven in my first match and to be bowling a lot. The decision was made to go in batter-heavy with me bowling a few overs of spin to relieve the pressure on the seamers. I was happy with that because I like to be involved in the game as much as possible. It was a different role for me and something that I hadn’t done before. The bowling side was certainly a bit different. I’d bowled quite regularly in the shorter form of the game for previous teams but in First Class cricket I’d mainly been used to supplement the frontline spinner. To be the main spinner was a totally different role for me and on the first day I was quite nervous about having to bowl more than anything else. As the season progressed though I started to feel more comfortable in the role.

“Luckily I got in and played quite nicely. It always makes life easier if you take an early opportunity and show what you can do. It was made a lot easier due to the way that I was accepted in to the dressing room before that. The guys really helped me fit in and I was glad to get an opportunity to play early on, albeit in a different position.”

What were Johann’s first impressions of Somerset.

“I really liked it,” he said. “I liked the Ground and I immediately fitted in to the changing room. There were a lot of really nice people around. Knowing Dave obviously helped and having played under him before I knew how he liked to run teams. That helped me a lot because it allowed me to get used to the environment and to get to know the players.

“The amount of support Somerset get made things easier too. I was surprised by the level of support the team gets. I’d played for other English counties so I knew that the game was well supported, but I was surprised by the very good support that Somerset get. Somerset players are really well supported, not only in terms of attendance, but also in the amount of well wishes you get when you’re walking through town and things like that. You get a huge amount of support from the people in the area. I immediately liked the place and enjoyed myself from the start.”

Was Johann nervous about making his Championship debut for Somerset?

“You’re always a bit nervous when you’re playing, especially when it’s for a new team. I think it’s good if you’re a bit nervous because it shows that you care about what you’re doing. I like the feeling of those pre-innings nerves as you’re walking down the steps. Once you cross that rope you just use that energy to stay focused. The big thing is to trust that you have done your work and your practice. You have to trust your skills when you get out there.

“Yorkshire had a very good team at the time, but that probably helped because they had a good bowling attack with plenty of pace and I actually like facing pace. It was nice to get out there and do it against such a good attack.”

“We had a very strong batting line up that season. It’s probably one of the strongest First Class batting line ups I’ve been involved with. When you look at it, Craig Overton was coming in at 11! That shows how immensely strong the batting line up was. It was nice to be a part of that and we did score a lot of runs that year. Obviously it was nice to get close to a hundred on my debut and it was good to play an innings of substance.

“It’s always nice to start solidly and the boys were pretty happy to have matched a strong Yorkshire side. It was a good team effort and everyone chipped in. It’s always good to start the season with a solid performance with the batters getting runs and the bowlers getting overs under their belts.”

Although he originally only signed for one year, Johann spent the rest of his career at Somerset before retiring at the end of the 2018 season. Did he have any idea at the time that he would remain at Somerset for such a long time and become such a fan’s favourite?

“I had no idea where this journey would take me,” he said. “It resulted in a five year stay and I really enjoyed it. During that time I changed from being a number seven spin bowling option in four-day cricket to a white-ball specialist. It was a winding road but one that was very enjoyable and one that I will never forget.

“I’ve had a lot of highs in my career and played with some very good teams and some very good players. I am very grateful for the time that I spent at Somerset and I’m very thankful for being able to end my career there.”

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