The big day is here at last! Somerset begin their 2021 campaign today, away to Middlesex, and following on from the thoughts from Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory, here's Taunton Deane favourite and England cult hero Jack Leach...

JACK Leach is hoping Somerset can use their experience of coming close in recent years to go “one step further” and claim a maiden LV= Insurance County Championship title this year.

The 29-year-old had been back in training for 10 days when he spoke to the County Gazette last Friday, following a gruelling winter of international cricket.

Illness and non-selection combined to deprive him of match action in 2020, but he began this year by playing in six straight Test matches for England - two in Sri Lanka and four in India.

“Going from not much cricket to a lot of matches at the highest level does take its toll on the body,” Leach said.

“But I’m just so thankful to be playing - it’s what I want to do, it gave me great confidence and I feel I’m getting stronger.”

Leach took 28 wickets across the two series, and while he steered clear of the distraction of social media, he was aware of the support from back home.

“Speaking to friends, family and people back in Somerset, I felt that support,” he said.

“I know how proud it makes people in Taunton and Somerset [to see him represent England], and it’s a real source of motivation for me - their support means everything to me.”

Coming into the county cricket season, Leach takes with him “confidence and belief”.

“I took on board some tactical stuff, too, and I’ve been chatting with [Somerset captain] Tom Abell,” he added.

“The wickets in India may be different, but I learned a lot about bowling spin.

“I have the chance to help the guys, especially the young players, as I can pass on my experience of the ups and downs of the last couple of years.

“It’s about not going too high when things are going well, and not too low when they’re not.

“We have a great group here and everyone is keen to do well, but that can’t always happen, so that’s a valuable thing to pass on.”

Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News:

IN FORMATION: Somerset's squad for the 2021 season

Looking at the seam bowling group, Leach said: “It’s really strong, with all bases covered.

“Marchant [de Lange] coming in adds an extra dimension, with how he is able to swing the ball late.

“Josh Davey, Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton are absolutely lethal, Jack Brooks too, and they all complement each other.”

In the absence of his fellow England international Dom Bess, who has moved to Yorkshire, Leach has had the chance to look at 20-year-old spinner Lewis Goldsworthy.

He said: “Lewis has done well and impressed me with his character - we have learned off each other.

“Roelof [van der Merwe] is a quality spinner, too, and Max [Waller] has done so well in the T20 games - I’m sure that will continue.

“It’s an exciting spin bowling group, and we will work together to get better.

“And speaking to Steve Snell [Academy director], it sounds like things are healthy in the Academy, with [left-arm spinner] Josh Thomas developing well.”

For now, the attention is on today’s Championship curtain-raiser away to Middlesex.

“I’m excited to be back with the boys and see how hard they’ve worked over the winter,” Leach said.

“Everyone can’t wait to get going, and starting at Lord’s is very special.”

Leach added that it “would be amazing” to bring some silverware back to Somerset, especially if they can celebrate it with their supporters.

“It’s something that we’re very conscious of, how much the fans are missing being in the ground - we miss it just as much.

“To be in the hunt for a trophy with our supporters back, that’s a massive motivation for us.

“We need to take it a game at a time, and put ourselves in the mix at the end of the season.

“We’ve come close, so hopefully we can use that experience to go one step further this year.

“I hope all our supporters are safe and well - and we look forward to seeing them soon.”