The Early Days
There is evidence of some form of cricket being played in the county of Somerset, since the late 1600s. However, it was not until the 18th of August, 1875, that a team of local amateur players decided to form the official Somerset County Cricket Club (SCCC), following a victorious match against a rival team in Sidmouth, Devon. As such, Somerset remain the only one of the present first-class counties, to have founded their cricket club outside the traditional county boundaries.
The amateur players who formed the club, originally decided not to have just one official home ground, but to play matches in different grounds around the county. For example, when they competed in Taunton, they played at Fullands School. This set-up was the norm until 1881, when Taunton Athletic Club decided to create a sports centre on the fields next to the River Tone. This quickly became the designated home of SCCC.
June 1882 saw the club play their inaugural first-class match, against Lancashire CCC at Old Trafford. They also joined the County Championship for four seasons. In 1886, four years after joining the Championship, Somerset did not compete against any other first-class counties and stopped playing in the County Championship. 1891 saw Somerset arrange a total of 12 matches against first-class counties and thus compete once again in the Championship. In 1892, Somerset managed some impressive performances and they finished the season in third place.
The era of the two World Wars
This third place finish was something of a high point for the club at this time, as the following seasons brought inconsistency and disappointment. They finished at the foot of the table a total of 12 times. Despite most of the team being inconsistent amateur players, there were some famous names, such as Sammy Woods, Len Braund and Tom Richardson. The start of World War I also meant that Somerset could not meet regularly to improve their skills and tactics. After the war, several of Somerset’s players, such as Jack White and Harold Gimblett, made international appearances, The SCCC team appeared to be showing signs of improvement but the start of World War II brought an end to these promising days. Following the end of the war, Somerset found it increasingly difficult to play well and they finished at the foot of the Championship in 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. The club also faced financial difficulties, which would need to be rectified if Somerset wanted to continue being a cricketing force.
The Golden Era
In order to change the fortunes of the club, several high-profile signings were made. Colin McCool and Bill Alley arrived from Australia and the results were almost immediate. 1958 saw SCCC finish in third place and gradual improvement during the early 1960s led to third place finishes in both 1963 and 1966, as the team was led by the influential Colin Atkinson. These years of improvement formed the foundations for the golden period which lay ahead for the players.
In 1979, new captain Brian Rose led an exciting SCCC team, including players such as Ian Botham and Viv Richards, to their first ever trophies: the Gillette Cup and the Sunday League. They also reached the quarter-final stages of the Benson and Hedges Cup. This trophy was won in 1981 and 1982 and the NatWest trophy followed in 1983. The years following this success were marked by controversy, as several successful players quit the club in protest at certain decisions.
This period of controversy brought a sudden end to the golden era, which had been so exciting for players and fans alike. Indeed, the fans had to wait until 2001 before they tasted success again. This success came in the form of the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy, following a victory over Leicestershire. 2001 also saw SCCC gain its highest ever finishing-position: second place in the County Championship. However, Somerset’s typical inconsistency crept into the side the following season and they were relegated in 2002.
Director of Cricket, Brian Rose, decided to introduce a youth policy to Somerset and also signed several experienced players to lead this young team, such as Ricky Ponting. 2005 proved to be a good year for the club, as they surprisingly won the Twenty20 Cup, and the young team appeared to be improving rapidly. 2006 saw the signing of the exciting player, Justin Langer, who repaid the club’s faith in him by hitting the highest score in SCCC’s first-class history. However, Langer was only signed by Rose for six weeks and Somerset were hit badly by his departure.
Langer decided to return to Somerset in 2007 and was promptly named captain. The 2007 season started and, despite some inconsistent results, SCCC were promoted back to Division One of the Championship after beating Essex at Chelmsford. They were subsequently promoted to the top division of the Pro40 league as well.
Gimblett had a fairy-tale start to his career at Somerset. The county were six wickets down for 107 runs, when Gimblett totalled a century in just 63 minutes. He finished the match with 123 out of 175 and Somerset comfortably won the match. He consistently scored up to 2000 runs per season and was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1953.
Langford captained Somerset between 1969 and 1971 and has an impressive career total of 1390 wickets. One of his best matches came in 1958, when he finished the match against Lancashire with 15 wickets for 54 runs. He finished that year with 116 wickets.
During his time at Somerset, Kitchen totalled 15230 runs in 354 first-class matches. In both 1966 and 1968, he managed to top the county averages.
Right-handed batsman, Richards, played for Somerset between 1974 and 1986. He was an influential part of the team that won the 1983 NatWest trophy and his legacy is marked by a set of entrance gates and a stand bearing his name at the County Ground in Taunton.
- You can purchase tickets online here
- You can purchase tickets over the phone by calling 0845 337 1875
- The address of the ground is: The County Ground, St James Street, Taunton, TA1 1JT
- Directions: Exit Junction 25 on M5 motorway. Follow the signs A38 to Taunton. Go straight across at the next roundabout. At the traffic lights go straight on (past Fitness First). Go across the next roundabout (signposted Cricket). For Car Park A: Go straight across at the next roundabout, keeping the Shell Petrol Station on the left. The entrance is 400 yards along on the left. For Car Park B: Bear left at the next roundabout, keeping the Shell Petrol Station on the right. Go straight on at the traffic lights and the entrance can be found 100 yards along on the right.
- The ground is only a few minutes walk from the town centre, so bus and train routes are convenient