Review of "Somerset"
I have only visited Somerset once and that was as a child. I have a female acquaintance who works as a GP in Odcombe near Yeovil.This opinion on Somerset cricket club is mainly about the club’s halcyon days in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The West Indians Vivian Isaac Alexander Richards and Joel Garner arrived at the club in 1974. Prior to this Somerset had not won anything during the previous 109 years.I used to follow the fortunes of this team on Sundays when the John Player League was covered live on TV.
The team consisted of:Brian Rose, Peter Denning, Viv Richards, Peter Roebuck, Ian Botham, Mervyn Kitchen, Trevor Gard, Nigel Popplewell, Dennis Breakwell, Vic Marks, Joel Garner, Hallam Moseley, Brian Langford etc.
Brian Close was captain of the 3-day team. He first played test cricket for England at the age of 18. He even played for England against the West Indies at the age of 46.Brian Rose was a solid opener who could play his strokes once he got his eye in. He even played in a few tests for England. I recall a brilliant 50 he made in a home test against the West Indies.
Peter Denning was a dashing batsman who always got the innings off to a good start. He used to make a quick 30 or 40 before throwing his wicket away. He was also a brilliant fielder.Viv Richards is one of the greatest batsmen of all-time. He came from Antigua. I remember a brilliant 124 not out he made during a Sunday League match. He hit the major innings to enable one-day victories for Somerset. He broke all sorts of records playing for the West Indies.
It was rumoured that he had a girl near every County ground to stay with. I am sure that this saved on hotel bills. During the 1987 Cricket World Cup he actually found time to father a boy with the Indian actress Nina Gupta. I do not think that his wife was too pleased about it.As a batsman Viv favoured the leg side boundary for his shots. In a Sunday league match the opposition put 7 men on the leg side to counter his strokes. But Viv simply changed his footwork and scored a boundary on the off side. He was the only batsman I can recall who never wore a helmet.
His greatest duel was against the Australian fast bowler Len Pascoe. Pascoe bowled a series of bouncers to Viv nearly missing his head. He then said that his next ball would put Viv in hospital. Viv simply straight drove that ball just missing Pascoe’s head. It was another battle won against a bowler.Peter Roebuck was an unspectacular batsman. His main job was to act as a buffer between Richards and Botham in the batting order. Roebuck now does cricket media work.
Ian Botham was the greatest English all-rounder of all-time. He made his name for Somerset as an 18-year-old playing in a Gillette Cup match against Hampshire in 1974. He ducked into a bouncer bowled by the fearsome Andy Roberts, which took a few teeth out. Instead of retiring hurt Botham won the game for Somerset.Somerset’s captain Brian Close took Botham under his wing. It was ironic that Botham married Kathy who was a family friend of Close. Botham always came up with the goods whether with bat or ball. He was also a great slip fielder often standing closer to the batsman than the other slippers.
Botham perhaps found it difficult to motivate himself in mundane 3-day matches. But in the one-dayers he sparkled. Whenever he batted the bar would be emptied in no time. The number of 6s he hit in one-dayers must be a County record.Mervyn Kitchen was a steady batsman. He is now a test umpire.
Trevor Gard was the bearded wicketkeeper of the team. He also scored runs quickly. He even was awarded a man-of-the-match award for a one-day match.Nigel Popplewell was a useful all-rounder. His father was the famous Lord Justice Popplewell.
Dennis Breakwell bowled leg-spinners I think.Victor Marks bowled off-spinners and was a useful lower order batsman. He made his test debut for England against Pakistan in 1982. His major successes at International level were confined to one-day performances for England. In the 1982-83 series down under Vic took 5 wickets in a one-day international against Australia. This led Bob Willis, who was England captain, to label Vic as the best one-day slow bowler in the world. Vic now does commentary on Test Match Special.
Joel Garner was one of the greatest West Indian fast bowlers of all time. He pitched the ball on a length, which meant that batsmen could not score runs off him. His 6’ 8” height meant that he got extra bounce out of the pitch. His best performances came in one-day matches. Often he was brought on when the opposition had to score runs quickly. His accuracy meant that he frequently took 5 wickets in an innings. He destroyed England in the 1979 Cricket World Cup final.Hallam Moseley was a fast medium pace bowler who worked hard but seldom got the wickets he deserved.
Brian Langford bowled good medium pacers. He was the first and only bowler to bowl 8 overs in the Sunday League which were 8 maiden overs.This team took over from Lancashire as the best one-day side in England. The team would get high totals thanks mainly to Viv Richards. All the players would chip in with a few runs. Joel Garner would slice through the opposition batsmen like a knife through butter.
Unfortunately in cricket, politics is never far away. In 1984 Richards and Garner were required for the West Indies tour of England. This ended in a blackwash 5-0 defeat for England. Martin Crowe of New Zealand took over as overseas player for one season. He made such a great impact that Somerset board members wanted to keep him on for more seasons.To retain Martin Crowe the board sacked Viv Richards and Joel Garner. There was a public outcry. Ian Botham walked out on the County as a result of these sackings. To run salt in the wound Martin Crowe had a dodgy knee and could not last a full County season. To this day I do not understand what forced the cricket board to sack their overseas stars.
I remember the great Australian batsman Greg Chappell having a season with Somerset. The South African opener Jimmy Cook had a couple of prolific seasons with the County. Even the great Indian opener Sunil Gavasker had a season here.Mark Lathwell played one test for England in the early 1990s. But he lost confidence and was never the same player again.
The only players I know from the current Somerset line-up are Andrew Caddick, Marcus Trescothick and Jaime Cox.Caddick has been playing test cricket for the last 7 years. His opening test bowling partnership with Darren Gough is one of the best in World Cricket today. He can also bat usefully lower down the order.
Trescothick was captain of the Under 19 England cricket team. England coach Duncan Fletcher handpicked him for the test team last year. During the England A team tour of 1999-2000 he had a miserable time. But he has since blossomed and only this week scored a test century in the defeat against Pakistan.Jaime Cox is a talented Aussie import. He should have been a member of the Ashes touring squad this summer. But his time may come if injuries affect the Aussies.
Fortunately a new committee is in charge of Somerset. They rightly made Viv Richards and Joel Garner honorary life members of the County.Let us just hope it is not another 109 years before Somerset wins another trophy.
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