Cricket: Piran leads a western revival

Iain Fletcher finds Somerset following the Holloway road
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THE NATWEST trophy semi-final at Taunton on Saturday pits the swaggering, strutting brown caps of Surrey against the cidermen of Somerset, and for the latter it is the best chance of a trophy since the halcyon days of Joel, Viv and Both.

Between 1979 and 1983 Lord's was invaded by the West Country hordes, who played up to the "wurzel" caricature with smocks, straw hats and pitch forks. Such self-deprecating humour was noticeably absent on the pitch however as Northamptonshire, Kent, Surrey and Nottinghamshire were harvested and the players carried the NatWest and Benson and Hedges trophies along the M4, after the mother of all parties of course, ears still resounding to the Somerset anthem of "drink up ye zider". Oh yes, they like to celebrate in the West and if Somerset defeat Surrey the home of cricket will once more echo to the "zider samba".

Twice the teams have met this year in the National League and twice Somerset have won, most recently last month at Guildford when Piran Holloway continued his excellent one-day form and guided Somerset to what seemed for much of the game an unlikely victory with an undefeated century, although the 28-year-old Cornishman acknowledges that "will count for nothing".

He went on: "We are confident because we have a good plan for winning one-day games and everyone knows what they have to do. My job is to get in and see the team home to victory. Often this season I've sacrificed run scoring and big shots because the job is to win the game and if I can do that by just staying there and accumulating, then I will. Runs and shots mean nothing without wins."

With only a solitary defeat in all one-day cricket thus far, Somerset must be doing something right and for once the figures tell the story. Holloway has 436 runs in eight innings at an average of over 87 in the National League and importantly was undefeated on three occasions. In the NatWest he averages an even 100, and overall in his 11 one-day innings he has scored one century and six half-centuries.

"The boys know that I'm going to stay there until the end if I can and I think it helps them. We all have a role to play when batting and by me batting through it gives us a great balance. The key is to try and think what the other captain wants, and often that is a couple of quick wickets," he said. "So if I don't get out and keep playing the ball into the gaps, then we are going to win more often than not.

"Some of the others like Mike Burns, Marcus Trescothick and Jamie Cox play brilliant attacking innings but that isn't my job. I'm there to see us through and I love the buzz of doing it. It's great to be involved when it counts."

Always intense about cricket, Holloway is more settled and relaxed this season with his game - "I don't try and emulate anyone else now" - but as a keen surfer he is enjoying riding the wave of victories that his performances have helped bring.