T20 BLAST PREVIEW: After their victory over Hampshire in the final of the 50-over competition, can the signing of Babar Azam lead them to victory in the 20-over format?
Coach: Jason Kerr
Captain: Lewis Gregory
Overseas: Babar Azam (Pakistan), Jerome Taylor (West Indies)
Last season: Semi-finals
Somerset topped the South Division group as they motored on to the semi-finals in last year's competition, winning 10 of their 14 matches. They had Jamie Overton and Lewis Gregory to thank for getting past Nottinghamshire in the quarter-finals, but nothing went right for them or their side against Sussex as they fell short in reaching the final.
Babar Azam had an excellent World Cup
Babar Azam is the best T20I player according to the ICC rankings, and his average of above 50 in the format is something that will help them add significant runs at the top of the order and not rely on late flourishes from the likes of Lewis Gregory down the order.
Tom Banton has already demonstrated his credentials at the top of the order with five successive half-centuries in this year's Royal London One-Day Cup and 69 in the final at Lord's and will now provide the impetus for his side rather than the bit-part role he played last year.
While Jamie Overton is often overshadowed by Gregory in the four-day format, it is the former who reigns supreme, especially with the ball, in this format. He took 24 wickets in the competition last year including a five-fer against Nottinghamshire and will look to make a similar impact this time around as well.
Powerplay batting. The prospect of Banton and Babar batting in unison could leave Somerset fans salivating if they haven't been by what they have already seen so far this season. Babar Azam has also had greater exposure to English conditions with the England white-ball series and the World Cup and that only strengthens his chances of impressing for his new side.
Pace bowling is another huge strength of theirs, not only because of the aforementioned Gregory and the Overtons and their success in the One-Day Cup but also because of the returning Jerome Taylor, who will provide competition in the fast bowling department after taking 22 wickets at 16.64.
Jamie Overton was Somerset's leading wicket-taker in the Blast last season
Fielding. Peter Trego, 38, and 34-year-old James Hildreth have been fine servants for the county but their age may count against them with the rough and tumble of the T20 competition and the ball has knack of following you if you don't want it to in this format.
Strongest XI (with T20 Player Index ratings): Tom Banton (1069), Babar Azam (63), Peter Trego (396), James Hildreth (356), Tom Abell (571), Steven Davies (427), Lewis Gregory (185), Roelof van der Merwe (112), Jamie Overton (421), Jerome Taylor (144), Max Waller (213)
Fixtures: Jul 18 - Glamorgan (a), July 20 - Kent (a), Jul 26 - Hampshire (h), Jul 28 - Sussex (h), Aug 2 - Surrey (h), Aug 4 - Middlesex (a), Aug 7 - Essex (a), Aug 9 - Hampshire (a), Aug 10 - Kent (h), Aug 16 - Gloucestershire (h), Aug 23 - Gloucestershire (a), Aug 24 - Glamorgan (h), Aug 27 - Surrey (a), Aug 30 - Middlesex (h)
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