My favourite match: Charl Willoughby

Somerset County Cricket Club have been fortunate to have been represented by some outstanding players who have featured in some memorable games.

During this winter we will be speaking with several former players to discuss their favourite games for the Club.

Today we focus on Charl Willoughby’s favourite Somerset game.

Charl was born in Cape Town and played his early cricket for Boland before switching to Western Province. During that time, he played in two Test matches and three ODIs for South Africa.

However, Charl probably first came to the attention of Somerset supporters in 2005 where he spent the season playing for Leicestershire. The two sides met in the first round of the Cheltenham and Gloucestershire Cup at Grace Road that year and the left-arm seamer opened the bowling. He soon reduced Somerset to 28 for six. Charl ended the innings with his career best List A figures of six for 16.

Later that summer Charl appeared for Leicestershire in the T20 Cup semi-final at the Oval when it was Somerset’s turn to triumph, after which they went onto beat Lancashire in the final.

At the end of the 2005 season, Somerset Head Coach, Mark Garaway signed Charl to play for Somerset where he enjoyed considerable success. Between 2006 and 2011 he appeared in 96 First Class matches for the County, claiming 347 wickets at an average of 27.49.

“I have got many good memories of Somerset,” he said when we spoke to him earlier this week. “I loved my time playing the Club from the very first time I played for them. That was a game against Gloucestershire at Bristol where I picked up a five-for. I remember that it was very cold and Cameron White was freezing!

“However, the game for me that really stands out as my favourite was the Gloucester game at Taunton when we got 20 wickets in a day on quite a flat surface, and I ended up getting my career best figures.

“The game was sort of going nowhere really and then it turned on its head in the morning. We ended up getting 20 wickets, which was pretty impressive for Taunton because that just didn’t happen at that time. We made them follow on and we got the wickets.

“I think that I got the last wicket of the first innings but because I’d bowled quite a long spell I didn’t get to open the bowling in the second innings. However, when I did come back on, I got a wicket with my second ball and ended up getting nine wickets in the game – seven in the first.”

The match that is Charl’s favourite was played at Taunton in August 2006. After winning the toss and choosing to bat, Somerset were all out for 409, which included a top score of 71 from James Hildreth, 60 from Matt Wood, and an unbeaten 60 from Wes Durston.

Gloucester had to face one over at the end of the second day and started day three 0/0. In their first innings the visitors were bowled out for 161 in 46 overs, Charl ending with seven for 44 from his 15 overs. Following on, the visitors were bowled out for a second time for 172 in 44 overs, Charl taking two for 40 to give him match figures of nine for 84.

“Playing at Taunton for the first couple of seasons was a challenge,” he explained. “So, to bowl Gloucester out twice in a day was just phenomenal. There were plenty of celebrations afterwards and we’d won inside three days.”

In that first season, Charl bowled nearly 500 overs and took 66 wickets to top the Somerset averages, bowling in tandem with Andy Caddick at the opposite end.

“Andy Caddick got me most of my wickets, and because he was such a good bowler, they had to take risks at my end, so he helped me get a lot of mine. We were a good combination. He was going away from the bat and I was coming in.

“We worked together and were a very good and successful opening partnership for quite a few years.

“The next year Cameron White really came to the fore and delivered so much to the Club alongside Justin Langer, and we got promoted.

“There are many games that I remember, but I think that game against Gloucestershire is the one that I remember most because it was against the local rivals.

“Now I work just across the road from the ground, so it’s easy for me to come across and watch Somerset play whenever I can. It’s a place with so many happy memories for me.

“Everybody is going to say they loved the game in which they got their best figures, but it was the big one against Gloucester, on a hot day, with not much movement and we got 20 wickets!”