Will Hawkes: Can West Country's nearly-men make final step to lift a trophy?
Saturday 17 September 2011
If Somerset needed any motivation to win today, they got it on Thursday. Their defeat at the hands of Lancashire ensured wild Red Rose celebrations for a first pennant in too many years: Somerset have never won the title and, more pertinently, have finished second in four competitions over the past two seasons. Today they could make it five with defeat in the CB40 final at Lord's. A bitter prospect indeed for Taunton loyalists.
They haven't lost yet, though. Victory won't be easy: their opponents are Surrey, on the highest of highs having snatched a promotion place away from Northamptonshire in the final knockings of the Second Division campaign. The Brown Caps have included Jade Dernbach (who played for England yesterday in Cardiff) in what looks an impressively strong 14-man squad: they have the best record of any side in this year's competition. Historically, this is the sort of match you would expect Surrey, never short on confidence, to win.
Chris Adams, the Surrey cricket manager, is confident his players will not wilt on the big occasion. "We have a group of lads who embrace [pressure]," he told the club's website this week. "They love to put on a show in front of a crowd. That's a terrific trait to have. It's either in you or it isn't. We have selected players we believe have that in them."
They showed that in the semi-final, when a decent Sussex side were put to the sword in a shortened contest at The Oval. The likes of Jason Roy and Tom Maynard know how to hit a ball while a bowling attack that could today feature the two South African-born pacemen, Dernbach and Stuart Meaker, is a force to be reckoned with.
Nonetheless, the real interest at Lord's lies with the West Country side. There have been teams before who have endured bitter losing runs (Kent, for example, have lost seven successive Lord's finals stretching back to the 1970s) but few have suffered so many blows in such a short period of time. Can Somerset raise themselves? Are they still mentally capable of coming out on top in a big match like this?
There should be some good news this morning. Marcus Trescothick, their popular captain, is likely to make his comeback from injury while Nick Compton, who has also been out in recent weeks, is in the squad. If anyone can beat Surrey, it should be Somerset's batting line-up – but you could have said the same about any of the three finals they have lost in the past 14 months. Today is just about getting across the line, whatever it takes.
A sizeable crowd should be there to witness it after last year's damp squib. Then, a short run-up to the final and the decision to play under lights held back sales: this year, by contrast, 16,000 tickets have already been sold and, with kids getting in for a fiver (adults for £40), plenty of walk-ups are expected this morning. Any waverers should be aware that there will be face-painting and beers produced especially for the occasion (Somerset fans can take solace in the fact their ale is far stronger than the Surrey effort): enough, surely, to please anyone.
Only victory will truly satisfy supporters of both sides. For Surrey, that will bring further confirmation that a club that lost its way 10 years ago is ready to challenge for the big trophies. For Somerset, it would be a wonderful balm for the past few seasons' injuries. Neutrals will surely hope for a West Country triumph.
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