Somerville’s SCG journey – tears in the car park to Test cricket

Will Somerville has recalled being in tears in the SCG car park when he was awarded a New South Wales contract in 2014 as he prepares for the chance of making a Test appearance on the ground six years later.

Somerville, the tall offspinner with three Test caps, who was a chartered accountant before a crack at professional cricket the age of 30, was a late addition to the New Zealand squad following the injury to Trent Boult. He admitted he had long had his eye on the fixture list following his return across the Tasman – lured by the prospect of more first-class cricket with Auckland – after a five-year stint with New South Wales.

“It was a dream to get there [a cricket career] at 30 and I’ll never forget when Nathan Lyon had his second daughter that was my third Shield game which upgraded me to a full-time contract in 2014. I was just in tears in the car park, realising I was going to be a cricketer.

“I did look at the schedule 12 months ago after I made my Test debut and I was pretty excited at the prospect. I was hoping to go on the tour and two days ago I got the call when I was playing T20 cricket for Auckland. I’m pinching myself that I’m here in front of the Members [Stand] talking to you guys.

“It’s pretty special to be back where my kids were born. My mother and father in law live down the road in Coogee and the kids are staying there for the week. Very special, for sure.”

He has helped bowl New Zealand to two victories (in Abu Dhabi and Colombo) in his three Tests, and in five first-class matches at the SCG took 23 wickets at 20.69. He is now a strong chance of coming into the New Zealand side for the final Test as they aim to try and avoid a whitewash, either as the lone spinner in place of the struggling Mitchell Santner, or as part of a twin-spin attack with Santner or legspinner Todd Astle, on a surface that is expected to turn.

“I’ll see how things unfold in 48 hours, assessing the wicket and what the balance is going to look like. I’m hopeful for sure,” he said. “I’ll just draw on the group around me, the Black Caps and their experience more than anything. I’ve played here before so it’s familiar surroundings, [but] it’s Test cricket, a different kettle of fish and it’s going to be tough.”

His nickname in the squad is ‘Dad’ on account of being one of the older members and his jovial spirit will be a boost to a team that has been heavily beaten twice in a series where it was hoped they would compete strongly.

“He’s a great guy to have in the camp, he’s so positive,” Shane Jurgensen, the New Zealand bowling coach, said. “I’ll never forget when he got his first cap in Abu Dhabi to see the look on his face and the emotion. He just brings so much to the team, experience and he’s very calm and a lovely person, and a pretty good bowler.”

During his time at New South Wales, Somerville bowled extensively with Steve O’Keefe and tried to learn all he could from Lyon when he wasn’t on international duty.

“I spent a lot of time training as I didn’t play that many games in four years,” he said. “I bowled a lot with Steve, Beau Casson was our bowling coach and I always chatted to Nathan when he was around and tried to feed off the GOAT of offspin bowling. He’s got a very pure action and it’s nice to watch. I learned from those guys. I also spent a bit of time with Greg Matthews who gives a different perspective on things. A few really good words stick in my mind.”

However, despite his time in Australian first-class cricket – and a 2016-17 season where he was New South Wales’ leading wicket-taker – there was only ever one team he wanted to play for internationally. “I always wanted to play for New Zealand, in the back of my mind growing up in Wellington, and I’ve always been an All Blacks fan.”