SOMERSET’S cricketers kick off their pre-season campaign today (Thursday), as they welcome Worcestershire to the Cooper Associates County Ground.

The two-day match (March 18-19) was arranged after it was confirmed that the Combined National Counties fixture (against players from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset) would not be going ahead as planned, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Somerset director of cricket Andy Hurry said: “It is important that the players experience competitive matches against quality opposition in the build-up to the start of the new season, and I would like to thank Worcestershire for agreeing to be our opposition over the course of the two days.”

The match will be followed by games against Gloucestershire (March 23-24, then two T20s on March 25), Worcestershire again (March 29-31) and Glamorgan (April 2-4).

Somerset then open their 2021 County Championship campaign away to Middlesex on Thursday, April 8.

Speaking to the County Gazette, head coach Jason Kerr said: “We’re incredibly fortunate to have been training outside this month.

“In a perfect world you would never train indoors - as cricket is played on grass - but with the winter weather that we have, the indoor facilities serve their purpose.

“The team here have done an incredible job with the playing surfaces, and the players have worked very hard over the winter - so now we’re seeing them transfer that onto the grass.

“The guys’ skill levels have been very good in training, and it’s about match sharpness now - putting markers down for the season.

“We only had a couple of [pre-season] games against Gloucestershire last year, so to play three First-Class opponents is invaluable preparation for us.

“It gets us into our rhythm and, from a batting point of view, we know we will be tested by some high quality bowlers.”

Kerr also spoke about how Tom Abell, Tom Banton and Lewis Gregory (who were all overseas for the Pakistan Super League until its suspension earlier this month), and Jack Leach (on England Test duty in India) would be re-integrated into the Somerset squad.

“It will be bespoke for each individual,” Kerr said.

“Jack had a lot of time without cricket [in 2020], then played six Test matches on the bounce, so we won’t rush him.

“I don’t anticipate him playing many of the pre-season games, whereas someone like Abes is itching to get back in.

“We will be cautious with [Banton and Gregory, both of them having tested positive for Covid-19 in Pakistan] and do right by them.

“The most important thing is that they’re fit and healthy.”

With club captain Abell not in the squad for today's match, all-rounder Craig Overton will be Somerset skipper against Worcestershire.

The 13-man squad also features Marchant de Lange - who has joined the club from Glamorgan - and James Hildreth, who has successfully completed his rehabilitation work after a hamstring injury that brought an end to his 2020 campaign.

Somerset squad: Kasey Aldridge, George Bartlett, Eddie Byrom, Josh Davey, Marchant de Lange, Lewis Goldsworthy, Ben Green, Steve Davies (wk), James Hildreth, Tom Lammonby, Ned Leonard, Craig Overton (c), Roelof van der Merwe.