Som­er­set ben­e­fit from an old ri­valry

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS - By Jeremy Black­more

SOM­ER­SET young­sters Ed­die By­rom and Ge­orge Bartlett put aside their old school­boy ri­valry to play key roles in the club’s fight for Di­vi­sion One sur­vival this au­tumn.

The pair first met as teenagers on op­pos­ing sides dur­ing fiercely con­tested matches be­tween their re­spec­tive schools King’s Col­lege and Mill­field, but ral­lied to a com­mon cause in the Som­er­set top or­der as the county at­tempted to drag it­self out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

Both grad­u­ated from the Som­er­set Academy, but the ri­valry be­tween the two re­mains: “Mill­field al­ways won, ob­vi­ously,” says Ge­orge, 19, with a smile.

With By­rom, 20, hail­ing from Zim­babwe, the pair have fol­lowed dif­fer­ent paths to the club, but there’s a fa­mil­iar strand to both their sto­ries, with cricket lov­ing fa­thers en­cour­ag­ing each player’s de­vel­op­ment.

Bartlett, whose fam­ily moved from Sur­rey to Som­er­set when he was one, grew up play­ing the game in the gar­den with his fa­ther, be­fore join­ing West­lands CC in Yeovil and pro­gress­ing through the Som­er­set age-groups.

By­rom at­tended St John’s in Harare, play­ing for Mid West Rhi­nos and rep­re­sent­ing Zim­babwe U17s be­fore mov­ing to Taun­ton in 2014 to com­plete his ed­u­ca­tion at King’s, Jos But­tler’s for­mer school.

There he fell un­der the watch­ful eye of for­mer Som­er­set player Rob Wood­man and di­rec­tor of cricket Phil Lewis who in­tro­duced him to Som­er­set. In­deed, this week By­rom scored his maiden first class cen­tury on his de­but ap­pear­ance for Ris­ing Stars in Zim­babwe.

Bartlett has al­ready made head­lines in the past few years, scor­ing prodi­giously for Eng­land U19s. His 179 in the Youth ‘Test’ at Nag­pur last win­ter came in a stand of 321 with Mid­dle­sex’s Max Holden, a new record part­ner­ship for any wicket for Eng­land U19s.

It was also the high­est score by an Eng­land U19 bats­man over­seas, beat­ing the 170 by Nasser Hus­sain against Sri Lanka some 30 years ago.

“Go­ing away when you’re young, es­pe­cially the Sub­con­ti­nent, places like In­dia and Bangladesh, it’s re­ally help­ful for your de­vel­op­ment, es­pe­cially against spin,” says Bartlett. “You couldn’t ask for a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence as a young player, so that’s been re­ally, re­ally help­ful.

“High­lights in­clude go­ing to the U19 World Cup last year. We didn’t get as far as we wanted to, but it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence nonethe­less and then go­ing to In­dia last win­ter where we did all right, in a good com­pet­i­tive se­ries.”

By­rom made his se­nior de­but for Som­er­set first in late June – in un­usual cir­cum­stances at Southamp­ton. Fac­ing a pink ball for the first time, he held his own, mak­ing 43 as Mar­cus Trescoth­ick’s open­ing part­ner in the first dig.

“It was a very strange in­tro­duc­tion to first-class cricket,” he re­calls. “I must have been the first debu­tant against a pink ball in a day/night game, so that was in­ter­est­ing!

“Just to be in­volved in first-team cricket is amaz­ing. My Mum and Dad came all the way from Zim­babwe. Es­pe­cially for my Dad, who’s re­ally en­joyed watch­ing my cricket grow, be­ing such a big part of my de­vel­op­ment, for him to be there was quite a spe­cial mo­ment for him as well as well as my Mum.”

Since then, By­rom has forged a reg­u­lar open­ing part­ner­ship with Trescoth­ick, which works well de­spite the 21-year age gap be­tween the pair. In eight Cham­pi­onship matches he scored 401 runs at 26.73 and, af­ter three knocks in the 40s, recorded a valu­able maiden first-class half­cen­tury in the fi­nal game of the sea­son against Mid­dle­sex.

Bartlett made his se­nior de­but at Edg­bas­ton against War­wick­shire at the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber, bat­ting at three in each of the fi­nal four games of the sea­son. How has he found the pro­gres­sion?

“There ob­vi­ously is a step-up, there’s ob­vi­ously a lot more peo­ple watch­ing. That’s height­ened things,” re­flects Bartlett. “The in­ten­sity goes up as well, but it’s the same game at the end of the day, just a bit more pres­sure on it.

“I’m en­joy­ing ev­ery minute of it. Couldn’t ask for any­thing more. Play­ing for Som­er­set means a lot. Com­ing through the age groups, I often would go and watch Som­er­set at the ground, watch­ing the likes of Tres play, so it’s an ab­so­lute dream come true re­ally to be play­ing with him and for Som­er­set – if a bit sur­real!”

Mean­while it’s clear that By­rom has taken Som­er­set to his heart: “Com­ing over from Zim­babwe, this is the club that’s given me the op­por­tu­nity to be­come a pro­fes­sional crick­eter, which is some­thing that I re­ally wanted and to then to fol­low in the foot­steps of some legends like Botham and Richards and guys like that, and a liv­ing le­gend like Trescoth­ick in the dress­ing room, it’s amaz­ing to be in­volved with.”

By­rom, who signed a two-year con­tract with Som­er­set this sum­mer, sees his fu­ture in Eng­land: “I’ve come over from Zim­babwe and this is where I wanted my pro­fes­sional ca­reer to de­velop and hope­fully it will do that for many more years.”

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

Work­ing to­gether: Som­er­set’s Ed­die By­rom and Ge­orge Bartlett, in­set

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