Somerset's Vitality Blast Campaign Review
Somerset missed out on the knock-out stages of this season’s Vitality Blast by just two points.
Following a T20 season of ups and downs we caught up with Head Coach, Jason Kerr to get his thoughts on the campaign.
Somerset went in to this year’s Vitality Blast on the back of four excellent performances in the Bob Willis Trophy and therefore hopes and spirits were high as the team travelled to Edgbaston to take on Birmingham Bears in the opening fixture of the T20 season. Unfortunately, there was only one winner that day and that was the rain.
“That was a frustrating start to the tournament for us,” said Jason. “You’ve flicked the switch from red-ball to white-ball, you’ve trained hard, the players are all really up for it and we just had to sit there and watch it rain for what felt like a very long time. We were in great form and when you’re on a high like we were at the time it feels like points lost. You can’t predict how the game would have gone but our confidence was really high and it felt a bit like one that got away.”
Two days later Somerset were in action against Northants Steelbacks, but unfortunately Jason’s side came away with nothing.
“At the end of the day I think there was a bit of rustiness in that performance,” explained Jason. “Northants were coming off the back of a comprehensive win in the format and it’s certainly their preferred format. We came close to sneaking a win and it’s a game we should have won despite playing poorly, but we just weren’t at the level that we needed to be at. We didn’t execute our skills well enough and we didn’t make smart enough decisions with the bat. In T20 cricket those small things make a huge amount of difference.
“You never play a perfect game, people will always make mistakes and there are always learnings to be taken from every game you play, but the better teams find a way to win in tight situations.”
Somerset bounced back in style with a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Glamorgan at the Cooper Associates County Ground just 48 hours later.
“We bounced back brilliantly against Glamorgan. Going in to the competition we knew that some slightly less experienced players were going to have to fill some vital roles and they did that superbly, especially in this game. Ben Green and Ollie Sale in particular were outstanding and then the way that Tom Abell and James Hildreth saw us home was outstanding. It was great to get the result but it was exciting to see some of the younger lads delivering their skills under high pressure.
“The partnership between Tom and Hildy was excellent. Tom now has a belief in his game across all formats and he once again made significant contributions this season. It’s not often that someone outscores Hildy quite like that, but James also played a huge part. He showed the maturity to keep rotating the strike and giving it back to Abes, which allowed him to do his thing.”
Next up for the team was another trip to Edgbaston, but this time to take on Worcestershire Rapids in front of the live Sky Sports cameras. This game also saw the return to the Somerset lineup of Babar Azam.
“That game was a great example of what T20 cricket is all about,” said Jason. “You are never out of it in this format. We put a significant score on the board and scored 29 runs off the penultimate over. We then got some early wickets but they had partnerships throughout their innings and they kept coming at us. That really tested our skills with the ball because there was a short boundary on one side. That’s what T20 is all about. Your skills need to be on point day in, day out. We weren’t at our best and that’s the reason that they got close.
“Having said that, we were obviously delighted to get over the line and claim the two points.”
Having played Worcestershire in Birmingham, Somerset then traveled back to Taunton to face the Birmingham Bears. A rain effected game saw the visitors claim the points courtesy of the DLS method, as Jason explains.
“Rain always has a huge impact on shortened-format games. It’s a frustration within the game because it never seems fair to either side, whether you’re batting or bowling. It is what it is, but for me we still had opportunities to win that game and didn’t take them. It’s never easy chasing a shortened total like that, but we didn’t take our chances. The players know that and there will be some good learnings to take away from games like this. ”
Worcestershire Rapids were the next opponents at the Cooper Associates County Ground and the visitors came away with an incredibly narrow three-run victory.
“That was very frustrating. Throughout the competition we were inconsistent and we fluctuated between doing some really smart things and some silly things. If you’re not consistent then you can’t expect to progress in competitions like this.
“You spend a lot of time talking about the significance of partnerships. When two batters get in in T20 cricket it becomes really hard to slow the scoring rate. The only way you can stop it is by taking wickets and breaking the partnership. From a batting point of view you have to make smart decisions in those situations and you have to be ruthless to get the job done. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite do that enough this year in the Vitality Blast.”
Following a narrow defeat against Worcestershire Rapids in their previous match, Somerset were looking to get back to winning ways when local rivals Gloucestershire visited the Cooper Associates County Ground. Following another dramatic encounter, it was the away side who claimed the bragging rights courtesy of a narrow 11-run win.
“Gloucestershire are a very good white-ball side,” said Jason. “So we knew we were going to be in for a tough game. That proved to be the case when they posted a significant score. We certainly weren’t at our best with the ball and we made some poor decisions, but there were some positives to take from the game too. To see Will Smeed play like he did was really good and it was great to see him take his opportunity and demonstrate what an exciting talent he is. We came close to getting over the line but we fell just short.”
Having lost the local derby, Somerset now had to win the three remaining games to stand a chance of qualifying for a quarter-final. How did Jason approach the remaining fixtures which began with a trip to Glamorgan?
“To put it simply, we knew that we had to go out there and win those last three games. It was black and white and in some respects that took the pressure off us a little bit.
“We played some really good cricket in that game at Glamorgan. Babar Azam showed that he is a world class player with a phenomenal hundred and a couple of guys batted really well around him. Lewis Goldsworthy made his debut in that game and I’d spoken to him about us needing someone to re-establish the innings with Babar. The plan was to save Lewis Gregory for the back end of the innings but as it turned out we didn’t need to because Lewis Goldsworthy played brilliantly.
“The guys then bowled and fielded superbly to ensure that we came away with a comprehensive win.”
Next up it was Northants Steelbacks at the Cooper Associates County Ground and Somerset claimed an impressive 66-run win.
“This was a really good performance,” said Jason. “Tom Abell, Steve Davies and Tom Lammonby were outstanding with the bat and I was very impressed by how the three of them went about it. We’re constantly trying to get the guys to enjoy their cricket and challenge themselves to be better and this is one of those games where we showed just what we can do in this format.”
Somerset went in to the final game at Gloucestershire knowing that a win would see them in to the quarter-finals. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as the hosts came out on top by two wickets.
“We were excited, we were playing well and we’d won two on the bounce so confidence was high. You know what you’re going in to when you play at Bristol and I feel that we played pretty well. We had an opportunity to win the game but we couldn’t quite take it.
“Obviously there was a huge sense of disappointment after the game in the dressing room, but I have to see the positives and there were some things that we did do well during the competition. People will say that we lost the game on that last ball, but there were lots of little things during the game that we didn’t quite get right.
“I think that game summed up our campaign. There were moments of brilliance and there were moments when we didn’t quite get things right.
“On the whole we weren’t good enough this year in T20 cricket. We need to be more ruthless. We will be honest in our reflections with the group but we won’t lose site of the things that we did well during the campaign.”
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