Somerset’s points handicap for next season’s County Championship has been reduced to reflect the competition’s remodelled format, after they were sanctioned by the Cricket Discipline Commission in 2019 for breaching the ECB Pitch Regulations with their spin-friendly surfaces for home fixtures.
The club was originally handed a 24-point penalty for the 2020 season – of which 12 were suspended – after being deemed to have prepared a substandard pitch for their Championship decider against Essex at Taunton in September 2019, a match in which Essex held on for a draw to secure their second title in three seasons.
The deduction was initially rolled over into 2021 when the onset of Covid-19 led to the cancellation of the County Championship and the introduction of the Bob Willis Trophy, a competition in which Essex and Somerset once again played off for the title in the final at Lord’s, which Essex again taking the title with a hard-earned draw on the final day.
But now, with the Championship divided into three initial groups of six to mitigate against further Covid disruption in 2021, a joint petition from Somerset and the ECB has resulted in the CDC adjusting their penalty to reflect the competition’s reduction from 14 matches in an eight-team first division to ten.
Somerset will now begin the season with a direct eight-point penalty in the Championship’s group phase, but if they commit any further breaches of the pitch regulations in 2021, they could face a further sanction, in addition to the suspended element of their punishment, which will be revisited when the format for the 2022 County Championship is confirmed by the ECB.
However, the amended sanction comes just days after Somerset’s former spin pairing of Dom Bess and Jack Leach combined with 14 wickets at Galle – including a five-for in either innings – to set up England’s seven-wicket win in the first Test against Sri Lanka.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo in the wake of that victory, senior figures at Somerset said that their overwhelming feeling was one of pride at the achievements of their spinners, with both Jason Kerr, the head coach, and Tom Abell, the captain, feeling that the club deserved recognition for the role it plays in preparing English cricketers for facing spinning conditions overseas.
“Surfaces need to be good enough for four-day cricket, definitely,” Kerr said, “but ultimately you want to encourage skill development and make sure that batters are prepared to go to somewhere like Sri Lanka, and perform as well as they do in Australia or anywhere else in the world. Yes, we want to win competitions, but to me, domestic cricket is there to help make the England team as strong as possible.”
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