Alfonso Thomas - "Somerset CCC setting standard in t20"
ALFONSO Thomas believes his Somerset team are now "setting the standard" in domestic Twenty20 cricket – and puts much of their success down to what they learned in India last autumn.
Somerset were six-wicket winners against Welsh Dragons on Friday, with James Hildreth scoring an unbeaten century, and have now won all three Friends Life t20 matches they have completed this season. Their other two Midlands/Wales/West Group games were abandoned due to rain.
Somerset head to Wantage Road to face Northamptonshire this evening (6.50pm), where they will be boosted by the return of Craig Kieswetter, Richard Levi, George Dockrell and Kevin O'Brien. Albie Morkel is unlikely to play due to a hamstring complaint.
But, even without their international quintet, who missed Friday's final-over victory, Somerset have again been a dominant force in domestic Twenty20 cricket.
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And acting skipper Thomas said: "This team, at the moment in Twenty20 cricket, I reckon is setting the standard. It's just remarkable how every individual is contributing to this team.
"It's going to be a tough selection for the next game, but that's what you want. We've always said that, with the quality we have brought in, no one is going to be assured of a place – and that includes me or whoever else. Where we've gone wrong in the past is guys depending on certain individuals.
"We want to go on to finals day and win the trophy and we have to be ruthless in our selection."
Somerset, without Marcus Trescothick and Kieron Pollard for all of the tournament, and Kieswetter, pictured, Jos Buttler and George Dockrell for most of it, reached the last four of the Champions League t20 in India last October.
And Thomas believes the experience of seeing the world's best Twenty20 players up close was an important lesson for Somerset's players.
"I think the guys learned a hell of a lot of India," he said. "I think they saw the benchmark you need to get to. Make no mistake, we came across some very, very good cricketers over there and I think our guys saw what the benchmark is and knew they had to step it up.
"When we left India, I said, 'just make sure we take a lot of this with us into our T20 season' – and the guys have done that. They have learned a lot and they are thinking on their feet.
"The fact everyone is contributing is going to make our life a hell of a lot more difficult when it comes to picking a side, but that's what you want."
Hildreth became the fourth Somerset player to score a Twenty20 century, following in the footsteps of Trescothick and Cameron White, both of whom have done it twice, and Graeme Smith, with his 60-ball 107 not out on Friday.
And Thomas praised the 27-year-old, whose previous limited-overs knocks this season had yielded scores of 21, 10, 3, 3 and 14.
"The guy had not had a lot of luck in white-ball cricket, but it just shows you: form is temporary, class is permanent," said Thomas. "That was a fantastic knock.
"We've always said, with the amount of players we were losing, that we were going to need guys to step up. If it's your day, you've got to make sure you see it through – and that's exactly what Hildy did. To have lost six of our players and chase a score like 179 is a fantastic effort."
Somerset will narrow their squad down from a 14-man group after assessing the Wantage Road pitch.
Somerset director of cricket Brian Rose said: "Chopping and changing your team is not always a good thing – but the standard of players coming back in is so high that it's not really possible to leave them out."
Somerset (from): R Levi, C Kieswetter (wkt), N Compton, P Trego, J Buttler, J Hildreth, A Suppiah, K O'Brien, A Thomas (capt), L Gregory, M Waller, G Dockrell, S Kirby, C Meschede.