JAMES Hildreth believes that Somerset are “in a strong position” to progress from the group stage of the LV= Insurance County Championship, despite their last two matches being ruined by wet weather.

Somerset - who went into the season with an eight-point deduction - are just a point off Group 2 leaders Gloucestershire, and 10 points ahead of third-placed Hampshire, their next opponents.

“We’re happy with where we’re at,” Hildreth told the County Gazette.

“The recent rain has been frustrating, but Tom Abell [who scored an unbeaten century in the draw at Gloucestershire] is playing so well, and should be pushing for higher honours in my opinion, and Craig Overton is bowling as well as I’ve ever seen.

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“We’re in a strong position and we have every confidence that we can go through as one of the top two.

“We’ve got Hampshire to come next, which will be a big game.”

Hildreth also echoes the thoughts of head coach Jason Kerr, who said earlier this month that Somerset were “winning ugly, without playing our best cricket throughout a game” and “when we do get our act fully together this season, we are going to be some team”.

“We’re still developing, we’re getting there,” Hildreth said.

“The way we played against Gloucestershire this week, we were getting close [to our best].

“We’re going to lose Craig Overton and Jack Leach now [both are in the England squad for the Test matches against New Zealand on June 2-6 and 10-14], but you always have these hurdles in a season.

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“We’ve got to keep our focus and not lose momentum.”

Somerset are developing with what is still a young squad, but one which has experience of recent silverware - the club marking two years since winning the Royal London One-Day Cup at Lord’s this week.

“It [winning the trophy] gave the younger guys a taste, and they’re desperate to win more,” Hildreth said.

“It showed that we can do it, after a lot of finishing second.

“When I started at Somerset we were at the bottom of Division 2, but now guys are coming into a winning environment.”

Yeovil Express:

JOY: James Hildreth celebrates scoring the winning run for Somerset in the 2019 One-Day Cup final (pic: Tim Goode/PA)

Hildreth has come a long way himself since then, too, as he holds the county’s all-time appearance record and has been moving up the run-scoring rankings as well.

Last month he overtook Bill Alley to become Somerset’s fourth highest run-scorer in First-Class cricket, with only Harold Gimblett, Marcus Trescothick and Peter Wight ahead of him.

Reflecting on that achievement, Hildreth said: “I’d known about it for quite a while - in this age of social media you get told these things quite a lot!

“It does mean a lot, and it’s something I’ll be really proud to look back on in 20-30 years’ time.

“I’m in the Somerset bubble at the moment so I don’t think about it as much, but I’m very proud.

“I’ve played for this club for a long time, and having never made it to international cricket it’s something for me to aspire to on a personal level.

“My main goal remains winning the County Championship - that’s what you play for.

“Everyone knows we’re all desperate to win it, and how important it is for the whole of the club.

“The personal stuff just happens on the way.”

Looking ahead, Hildreth and his Somerset team-mates can look forward to playing in front of a home crowd for the first time since 2019, when Hampshire come to Taunton for their next Championship fixture (June 3-6).

While the game at Gloucestershire may have been hit by the rain, it did at least give the players a taste of what they’ve been missing.

“It was brilliant [having spectators back] - it makes it so much better,” Hildreth said.

“Just having the clapping and the sound of the tannoy, even the sledging from the opposition fans, the usual cricket noises... just so much better.

“Hearing ‘Tractor’ in the stands at Taunton - those are the noises and familiar faces we’ve all missed.”

And those Somerset fans will be able to watch the club's new overseas signing in action soon, with New Zealand batsman Devon Conway available to play for them between June 23 and July 18.

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"He's had a different journey to international cricket, but he looks a real good player," Hildreth said of Conway.

"He's a brilliant prospect, and I know that Jason Kerr and Andy Hurry [director of cricket] look for character - what a player brings on and off the pitch.

"He's definitely one of those guys."