Taunton Cricket Club got their campaign underway when they played host to local rivals, Taunton Deane, in a pre-season friendly at Gipsy Lane on Saturday (12th April).
And, with both sides missing a number of first team regulars, it was the home side who prevailed by 34 runs against a particularly youthful looking Deane team.
In an entertaining encounter, Taunton recovered from 89 for five in the 16th over to compile 264 for eight from their allotted 40-overs, thanks largely to a superb innings of 87 from Rob Hake.
The Somerset CCC groundsman was the star both on and off the field, producing a fantastic early-April wicket, on which he then enjoyed the fruits of his labour by dominating the second half of his side’s innings
In all, Hake smashed seven boundaries and five sixes, adding 80 for the seventh wicket with veteran wicket-keeper, Jon Kerslake (22). After Hake’s departure, it was left to George Cook to push past the 250-mark, with the beefy paceman duly obliging with a very brisk knock of 33 not out.
Earlier in the day, Simon Manley (27), new skipper Jack Cooper (21), Josh Kelly (16) and Graham Fitt (18) all spent valuable time in the middle without being able to kick on.
While highly talented 14-year-old batsman, Charles Clist, can consider himself extremely unlucky to have been run out by a direct hit at the bowler’s end, having being called through for a cheeky single by captain Cooper.
Credit should go to the young Deane attack, who stuck to their task admirably in testing conditions. Especially impressive was 16-year-old leg-spinner, Kalvin Harrison, who picked-up three for 47 from his eight overs.
The visitors' reply was built almost entirely around a brilliant unbeaten century from captain, Sam Burgess, which included seven fours and eight sixes.
Before Burgess had arrived at the crease, Sam Shaikh looked in great touch, until he fell to a smart catch by Fitt at square-leg off the bowling of the impressive Cook, with all but one of his 33 runs coming in boundaries.
Fitt enjoyed a good all-round debut for Taunton, leaving both youth (Harrison) and experience (Ali Warren) stranded down the track in the space of a couple of deliveries, at which point he disappeared into the warmth of the pavilion.
Indeed, with the off-spin of Fitt and Chris Greenwood, the leg-spin of Kelly and Rich Glover, and the left-arm spin of Ben Orr in the ranks, Gipsy Lane could be the place to be in 2014 to see a "Summer of Spin."
In among all the slow bowlers on display, 16-year-old left-arm seamer, Matt Derben, put in a fine performance both with the new ball and at the death, to finish with very creditable figures of one for 39 on debut.
The Deane innings, however, belonged to Burgess. On many other days, his undefeated 118 would have seen his side to victory, but the inexperienced nature of the middle and lower order meant his efforts were ultimately in vain on this occasion.
Nevertheless, at this stage of proceedings Taunton will take the win, as they look to create some momentum prior to the serious business of seeking promotion from the Bristol & Somerset League.
The inaugural Cooper Associates Man of the Match award goes to Rob Hake for his game-changing innings of 87.