Taunton Cricket Club - 2nd Team Season Preview
After missing out on the Bristol and North Somerset Division title by the narrowest of margins last summer skipper Joey Rose will be hoping his troops can go one better in 2014.
Despite a pair of crushing victories over eventual champions Winterbourne, the 2nd XI lost out on the league crown by virtue of an inferior win percentage.
But with leader Rose having another year’s wisdom under his belt thanks to Mother Nature, the heir to BCR’s side is sure to be in the mix for honours come the business end of the season.
Having bottled his quest for 1000 league runs, eventually settling for a paltry 746 for the season, left-handed opener Simon Manley will once more provide the power at the top of the order.
Simon will likely open with lifelong chum Mark Baker who, having made a triumphant return to club cricket last summer, will be looking to build upon his steady run tally this time around.
Club pro come sports psychologist Lee Hart will offer guile and control with his tidy off spin through the middle of the innings, while his middle order runs and guiding touch could prove invaluable if he can survive his inevitable early LBW scares.
The side will be hoping to see more of regular wicket keeper Neil Strugnell through the course of the summer.
Fatherhood prevented Strugs from keeping up his almost ever-present status behind the stumps last year, but with his glovework ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, the whole squad will sleep a little easier on a Friday night knowing they will be seeing Neil in his deep squat the following afternoon.
With leg spinner Tom Jennings having gone transatlantic and medium pacer Chris Speed stuck in deepest, darkest Durham for half the summer, captain Rose may find wickets hard to come by in the initial stages of the season.
The youthful pair snared 44 league victims between them in 2013, duly obliging more often than not when they were called upon as partnership breakers throughout the campaign.
Certainly the weight of expectancy will lay heavier on the broad shoulders of veteran Hart, while the skipper himself will be forced to think heavily about whether to make a return to the popping crease personally or simply declare earlier in the opposition innings.
Of course Messrs Manley and Dakin will also be eager to take on greater responsibility with ball in hand and the thought of them operating in tandem will quite literally have the Gypsy Lane ground quaking.
Young left-armers Matt Derben and Ryan Cleverly too will be looking to step up to the plate and show themselves as worthy front line pacemen.
Perhaps the key to the 2nd XI season is staying in touch with the leading sides come the half waypoint.
With the likes of Godfrey, Blackmore, Cook, Kelly and Hallas all likely to be available for the run in, a strong finish is once again on the cards.
A little fortune along the way wouldn’t go amiss, but the 2nds are more than capable of lifting the division trophy come August.