You know about Somerset’s Glory Years (1979-83), and about their re-emergence as a County Championship contender in recent times. But where did the club stand as the 21st century dawned? RICHARD BROWNE dips into the County Gazette archives to find out more...

AS the 20th century gave way to the 21st, Somerset County Cricket Club was basking in the glow of a successful 1999 season.

Led by new captain Jamie Cox, Somerset had finished fourth in the County Championship - their highest position since 1981.

The team also appeared in their first Lord’s final since 1983, only to lose out in the NatWest Trophy showpiece to West Country rivals Gloucestershire.

Cox had scored 1,617 runs, and was ably assisted by the likes of Andrew Caddick (91 First Class wickets), Robert Turner (Wisden readers’ wicketkeeper of the year), Cornishman Piran Holloway and a 23-year-old Marcus Trescothick.

Before we start our look back at the 2000 season, it’s worth a recap of the competitions that Somerset would play in... because they are quite different to today’s.

The 2000 County Championship (sponsored by PPP Healthcare) was the first to be split into two divisions, and at the end of the season three teams would be relegated from Division 1, with three from Division 2 going up.

The Championship followed on from the Benson & Hedges Cup, a List A (50-over) competition, with its regionalised group stage played during April; this competition was wound up in 2002.

The NatWest Trophy was another 50-over tournament, but straight knockout - the 18 First Class Counties joined by Minor Counties, cricket boards and national teams (Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland).

Finally there was the National League, commonly known as the Sunday League, which was also split into two divisions and had matches of 45 overs per side; both this competition and the NatWest Trophy (or Friends Provident Trophy as it was by then) were replaced by the ‘ECB 40’ in 2010.

The 2000 season was a tough one for Somerset, as the cups brought little joy, but they did manage to maintain their Division 1 status in both the Championship and the National League.

They were hamstrung by the loss of Caddick and Trescothick to England, and promising bowler Matt Bulbeck to a back injury.

All three were available for the season-opening Benson & Hedges Cup - as were new signings Ian Blackwell (from Derbyshire) and Jamie Grove (from Essex) - but that competition was a washout in every sense of the word.

Of Somerset’s five group matches during April, three were abandoned due to rain, and the other two - both defeats - were determined by Duckworth-Lewis.

The County Gazette labelled it a “fiasco”, and vice-captain Trescothick commented: “It’s pretty farcical really but there’s nothing we can do about it.

“All we can do is work hard in the nets while the weather is like this and not let it get us down.”

Gloucestershire went on to win the competition, as part of a hat-trick in the one-day competitions that season - Somerset’s neighbours also claiming the NatWest Trophy and National League crown.

Somerset’s Championship opener was at home to Surrey on April 26-29, and the visitors to Taunton would go on to retain their title come the season’s end.

Not that a side containing Mark Butcher, Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe had much chance to outline their credentials... for rain once again dominated.

The hosts were more impressive when the weather relented, with Steffan Jones claiming 5-41 as Surrey were dismissed for 185, before Trescothick (85) and Mike Burns (81) led their side to 302-8 as the match was drawn.

Somerset took that form into their first National League fixture, as all-rounder Keith Parsons hit a match-winning 66 to defeat Gloucestershire.

Another win followed, this time in the Championship, as Somerset travelled to Hampshire and ran out winners by nine wickets.

The home side may have had Shane Warne, but Cox won the battle of the Australians with 153 in Somerset’s first innings.

Caddick (5-62 and 7-64) was in destructive form, and the visitors knocked off the 40 runs required to win inside three days.

Somerset won four of their next six matches, but their victory at home to Kent in early June proved to be their last Championship win of the season; their remaining 11 games brought eight draws and three defeats.

Caddick took 6-57 and 4-40 to leave Somerset needing 190 to beat Kent, only for the hosts to slip to 50-3 and 97-6.

Parsons and Graham Rose rebuilt, but both departed to leave Somerset on 142-8; Blackwell and Caddick held their nerve, though, and got the job done.

Three days later, however, Somerset were crushed by champions Surrey, with a Thorpe ton helping the hosts win by an innings and 213 runs at the Oval.

Somerset’s 100 per cent record in the National League was lost, too, as Northamptonshire Steelbacks won a close-run encounter.

Trescothick’s 87 fired Somerset to a less than convincing win over Minor Counties side Shropshire in the third round of the NatWest Trophy; James Ralph plundered 102* for the home side but they finished 27 runs short.

Not that they progressed much further in the competition, as Middlesex handed them a 165-run pasting in the fourth round.

The hosts’ 223-4 did not look insurmountable, but Somerset collapsed to 9-4 (Cox, Trescothick, Peter Bowler and Burns all departing) and were eventually bowled out for 58.

There was also a 50-over defeat to Zimbabwe - preparing for a triangular series against England and the West Indies - for whom Neil Johnson scored 101.

Trescothick was in ODI action by this point, pressing his claim for a Test spot, which allowed Mark Lathwell to return in the rain-affected draw with Hampshire at the start of July.

There was also an opportunity for 19-year-old all-rounder Pete Trego, who was impressing in his debut season and earned an England Under-19 call-up.

Somerset County Gazette:

BREAKTHROUGH: A 19-year-old Peter Trego, in the year 2000

Draws against Lancashire, Durham (twice) and Yorkshire meant that Somerset were out of Championship relegation danger, but with their National League form tailing off, there were no wins to celebrate between July 23 and August 20.

After an innings defeat to Yorkshire, the return match at Taunton was drawn, with rain again playing its part.

The stars were Bowler (139*) and Parsons (108*) - their 227-run stand was a fourth-wicket record against Yorkshire, and for local boy Parsons it was a first Championship century.

Trego continued his progress with his maiden First Class half-century in the same match.

The drought ended against National League title rivals Worcestershire, which took Somerset top of Division 1 and within touching distance of a trophy.

Cox (57) and Burns (50) led their side to 227-9, and Blackwell’s 4-36 was the pick of an impressive bowling display - even with England man Caddick rested - as the home side finished 53 runs short.

Three days later came the highlight of the season: a 269-run victory over the West Indies.

Somerset piled up 488, with Parsons scoring a brilliant 193*, and then 240-6 to put the pressure on the visitors (warming up for their final Test against England), who could only respond with 290 and 169.

Already in trouble going into their second innings, the Windies were stunned by Grove’s 3-5 from 12 balls and finished off by Jason Kerr.

Kerr, on the fringe of the 1st XI at the time, claimed a first career hat-trick - dismissing Brian Lara, Nixon McLean and Cory Collymore - to win the match.

Yet that proved to be Somerset’s final win of the campaign as the 2000 season petered out... all four of their remaining National League matches bringing defeat.

Having opened the competition with five wins, they ended it only two points clear of the drop.

Bowler admitted it had been an anti-climactic finale, saying: “We’ve played poorly over the last three weeks and we have handed the [National League] title to Gloucestershire.”

Trescothick, now on contract with England, was at least able to keep up with the scores, early Noughties style.

“It’s been hard work watching the scores come through on teletext, especially when the results haven’t gone our way,” he said.

Bowler’s late season form meant that he was the only Somerset batsman to top 1,000 Championship runs for the season (averaging 57.37), followed by Cox on 835; Trescothick (42.73) was next in the averages, but played half as many games as Bowler.

Caddick, who only played in three Championship matches (two of which were Somerset’s only wins), easily topped the bowling averages with 11.76, ahead of Burns on 27.23.

Somerset were not the only county to lose out to England call-ups, of course.

As the season ended, Brian Close - formerly of Somerset and now back at Yorkshire - bemoaned the loss of Darren Gough for all but three Championship matches.

He told the press: “The central contracts system means that we lose our best players, and it will be the ruination of the county system. It’s crackers.”