Marcus Trescothick: Attack at heart of challenge for t20 glory
WHAT a great shame it would be if the weather spoils tonight's Friends Life t20 derby between Gloucestershire and Somerset in Bristol.
I've seen the forecast and got to admit it's not very encouraging. Let's hope the forecast is wrong because there is always extra pressure on a derby and the players realise how important it is to supporters.
The t20 is such a big competition for the players and one they really look forward to. It is a great chance to play in front of big crowds and for players to showcase their talents.
We were unlucky with the weather last year, with three Friday matches and a Sunday one washed out at Taunton. It's such a disappointment when that happens, because there is always a big build-up to the competition at the club and among supporters. Everyone looks forward to the entertainment that these games throw up.
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Last year, we lost to Gloucestershire at Bristol, before going on to beat them at Taunton. In the match at Bristol, Gloucestershire's spinners had a big say in restricting us to 121-9 and, as well as Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan), of course, they have the likes of Kane Williamson, Jack Taylor and Ed Young to bowl spin.
Spin bowling is one of their strengths and something we'll have to plan for and cope with. As for ourselves, I wouldn't say spin is our mainstay, but it is still an area we have well covered.
Whether you go into a game with one, two or three spinners is, of course, largely dependent on what the pitch is like and what ground you are playing at, but I'm confident we have plenty of options and a good balance to our attack.
Our seam attack is led by Albie Morkel, Alfonso Thomas and Steve Kirby, backed up by several medium pace all-rounders, and then we've got Max Waller, George Dockrell and Arul Suppiah to bowl spin.
As for our batting, we've added Kevin O'Brien to our squad and, as he has shown for Ireland, he is certainly someone who can clear the rope. We brought Kevin in because we were unsure how much Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler would be around for this year's t20 due to the forthcoming one-day matches that England are involved in.
Our new South African recruits, Albie Morkel and Richard Levi, will also disappear for a couple of games, and with me being injured, we felt we needed to bring Kevin in to add some firepower and cover to our squad.
As it turned out, Craig was selected in both the England squads, for the one-day and Twenty20 matches against the West Indies, and will miss most of our t20 games.
Jos, though, was only selected for the Twenty20 match and I must admit that was a big surprise to me. I had him down as a banker to be included in the ODI squad.
He played a couple of one-day internationals in the winter and has scored a decent amount of runs in the 40-over matches we've played this season, so I'm not sure why he's been left out.
I was also a bit surprised to see Ian Bell brought in as Kevin Pietersen's replacement following KP's decision to retire from international one-day cricket, although it is not necessarily a bad choice.
I thought they would give Ravi Bopara the chance to open the batting, but Bell had a crack at doing it a couple of years ago in Australia and it will be intriguing to see if he can do a job this time around. I think it's going to be a really good three-match contest with the West Indies. It is the first time in a long time that they've had a full-strength side to select from, with Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo now back in the fold.
They had six players involved in this year's Indian Premier League and look to be strong and powerful in all departments. I still back England to come out on top in these conditions, but I expect it to be a close series.
There will be a lot of interest in how Narine bowls. He was lethal in the IPL and looks to be a tremendous talent. No one seemed to be able to pick his deliveries in the IPL and it will be interesting to see if he can be as effective with the red ball as the white one.
When we had Ajantha Mendis at Somerset for the early part of last season, he didn't have the same impact with the red ball as he had shown with the white, so it can make a difference. But there's no doubt Narine looks like someone who is very tough to bat against.
Finally, Somerset supporters may have noticed that Alfonso Thomas captained the side in last week's County Championship game with Worcestershire, rather than James Hildreth, who had been doing the job while I'm sidelined by my ankle injury.
Hildy was more than happy to step aside and return to his role as vice-captain. He had found it quite tough in previous games and feels he needs a bit more time to grow into the role.
It's a lot of work to get runs for your team and win games for them, while also thinking about all the decisions that come with being captain. Trying to keep your brain in gear, and not be dragged down when things don't go right, is something that comes with experience. When you are older, you cope with it better.
Hildy has had a taste of being skipper and knows what it takes to do the job. From the way he goes about it and the things he says to the players, I definitely see him as a future Somerset captain.
In the meantime, we know Alfonso will do a good job. He captained us in the Champions League t20 and we had already planned for him, in my absence, to captain the side in the Friends Life t20. He's a very experienced cricketer and someone who plays a vital role in the team, with his bowling in the powerplay overs and at the end of an innings.
Interview: Mark Easterbrook