In 2016 a familiar face returned to Somerset County Cricket Club.
Roelof van der Merwe first played for Somerset in 2011 and made an instant impact. His energy in the field and never say die attitude played a major part in Somerset’s impressive one-day performances that year. He was also one of the stand out players as the Club reached the semi-final of the T20 Champions League.
The all-rounder rejoined the Club this season and once again had a big part to play both on and off the field. What did he think of the 2016 season? “It couldn’t have gone too much better,” he said. “I think we played some decent cricket during the year and I’m happy that I contributed. We were pretty close to getting a trophy in the cabinet and hopefully we can go one better next year. To finish second in the Championship was an awesome feeling and we played some really good cricket to get there. I think we learned a lot from this season and I think we can still improve in all formats. The place is pretty similar to when I was last here except for the big new pavilion! There are still good people here and a really good crowd too.”
Roelof made headlines this year when he and Jack Leach bowled Somerset to a stunning win over Durham at the Cooper Associates County Ground on the morning of day three and the 31 year old has enjoyed bowling in tandem with Jack. “Bowling with a guy like Leachy is awesome,” he said. “It takes a lot of pressure off you as he is taking a lot of wickets. It meant that there was very little pressure on me as the second string spinner and I could just go out there and enjoy it.”
Roelof also reached a major milestone during the season by making his maiden century for Somerset about which he said: “It was good to be able to contribute with the bat. To get that monkey of the first century for Somerset off my back was really nice. It’s always good to get your first hundred for a club and I was so happy that I could do it in my first season back.”
During his first spell with the Club he was regarded as something of a one-day specialist but that is a tag he is keen to shake off. “I played a lot of the longer form in my last few seasons in South Africa,” he said. “I particularly enjoyed batting in the four-day game. I enjoy the red ball stuff and in this day and age I don’t think that there is a big transition any more. It’s just a case of adapting quickly.”
It will be a busy winter for Roelof who has international commitments with the Netherlands as he explained. “In the New Year we head to Dubai and Hong Kong so we will have about a month and a half of cricket with Holland and hopefully we can win some games. I’ll also be heading to South Africa for a little holiday to chase the sun with the family. Then it’s back here to get ready for the season and hopefully we can do well again.”