By Paul Jones
Glamorgan head coach Matthew Maynard is hoping he plays his joker to good effect when the county finally get their season up and running at Somerset today.
Kiran Carlson became the county’s youngest century-maker at 18 when he hit 119 against Essex at Chelmsford in September 2016.
Since then, the 22-year-old batsman has been combining university studies in Cardiff with his cricket, but his form in warm-up games – and his personality – means Maynard is expecting him to be major player this season, having been promoted up the batting order to number three.
“Kiran’s been around for a good while around the set-up, he’s got an abundance of talent and he’s a player that I really like,” said Maynard.
“We’re pushing him to stand-up and take that opportunity at three. He’s worked really hard on his red-ball game, to tighten his technique a bit, and hopefully that will bring him results in the next few games as it has in the intra-squad games.
“He’s the kind of player you want at the club. He’s hungry, he’s great in the field, he gives his team a buzz and he’s a bit of a joker as well so he brings a lot to the team and when he’s not around, you miss him.”
The 2020 domestic season will get under way with counties competing to win a new tournament in the shape of the Bob Willis Trophy.
With the first half of the campaign wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic, a shortened and improvised alternative was finalised to the usual County Championship.
All 18 clubs will battle for the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy, with the winners of this year’s regionalised red-ball competition receiving a piece of silverware based on a painting by the wife of the late Bob Willis, who died in December.
Willis’ two former clubs Warwickshire and Surrey will be in the Central and South groups respectively, with the other category a North group.
Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Warwickshire and Worcestershire make up the Central division.
Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire will do battle in the North group.
2019 County Championship winners Essex and Surrey, who clinched the title in 2018, are in the South section alongside Hampshire, Kent, Middlesex and Sussex.
“There’s excitement, there’s a bit of nerves as there always is and as there should be,” said Maynard.
Carlson slots in at 3, with de Lange and Hogan set to open the bowling for Glamorgan 🏏
Thanks to our friends at @SomersetCCC, we have the live stream of this game available on our website 🖥️
— Glamorgan Cricket 🏏 (@GlamCricket) August 1, 2020
“It’s that unknown when you go into the first game and the prep has gone well but you’ll only really know when you come up against opposition for the first time.
“We’ve had a really good pre-season and made the best of it that we can. The intra-squad games have been really good and seeing guys putting their hands up.
“We did a lot of good work during the winter and a lot of that work has stayed with the players. There’s a bit of rustiness, especially with the bowlers and the workloads they go through, and we’re in a decent position now to go full throttle on Saturday.”
All 18 clubs will play once against their group rivals, with the first four rounds of fixtures to take place consecutively, and the two group winners with the most points will make it through to the final.
The date and venue for the final are yet to be confirmed, but it will be played across five days.
If tied, the trophy will be shared and if the game ends in a draw, the winner will be decided on a tie-breaker with the lead on the completed first innings taken into account.
Due to a congested fixture list, there will only be 90 overs a day instead of 96 at a rate of 15 every hour with hygiene breaks required every six overs unless there is a natural break.
A socially distanced Media Day at Sophia Gardens 📸
✅ Team photos and action shots
✅ TV interviews
✅ New shirt numbers
— Glamorgan Cricket 🏏 (@GlamCricket) July 30, 2020
The new ball will be taken at 90 overs rather than 80 to encourage spin bowling, while there will be a first innings limitation of 120 overs.
An increase in the follow-on target has occurred too, with 200 the figure now rather than 150. All fixtures will have first-class status.
Fans were expected to attend the opening days of Surrey v Middlesex at the Kia Oval and Warwickshire v Northamptonshire at Edgbaston, but those plans have been scrapped after the UK government called off the return of spectators on a pilot basis on Friday.
While matches will be played behind closed doors, there is plenty to play for even with relegation off the table.
Points scoring will be the same as in the County Championship, but eight will be awarded for a draw instead of five.