Alfonso Thomas believes surprise packets Somerset can prove strong contenders to win the Champions League after overcoming the odds to win their first three games.
Despite being without Marcus Trescothick, Kieron Pollard, Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler from their domestic Twenty20 team, the club won both qualifying matches before opening their Group B campaign with a five-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders.
Considering that Somerset arrived in India little more than 24 hours before their first match against Auckland Aces, having just lost the Clydesdale Bank 40 final to Surrey, and did not have a chance to acclimatise to the conditions or play any practice matches, their success is extraordinary.
Now, with Kieswetter and Buttler due to arrive to strengthen the squad ahead of Saturday’s second group game against South Australia, acting-captain Thomas feels his team can go all the way.
“It’s onwards and upwards, hopefully,” he said. “We rocked up here at 4.30pm last Monday and I don’t think a lot of people gave us a chance of even qualifying.
“A couple of the teams have been here for a few days and had some warm-up matches – but maybe that just shows the character of Somerset.
“There is a tremendous spirit in this squad of players and having players of the calibre of Craig and Jos about to join us can only make us stronger.
“We are more than matching our opponents for energy, if not talent, and after all our cup final disappointments at home, the aim in to go all the way in this tournament.”
Ireland’s George Dockrell replaced leg-spinner Max Waller in the squad for the Group B victory over the Knight Riders, whose star-studded line-up had already been beaten by Somerset in the qualifying games.
Waller bowled really well in those matches, but Somerset had to nominate which players would return home when their internationals became available before the tournament started.
Lewis Gregory, who took 2 for 9 in the second victory over the Knight Riders, must now drop out, along with emergency wicketkeeper Steve Snell to make room for Buttler and Kieswetter.
For Snell, who was playing minor counties cricket for Hertfordshire and club cricket for Bristol this summer, the Champions League has provided a fairytale return to the big time after being released by Gloucestershire and he has contributed fully to Somerset’s three victories.