BACK in 1977 the Somerset County Gazette launched ‘Search for a Star’, competition  to try to find a fast bowler for the county, writes Richard Walsh.

One of those who entered was Mark Davis from Kilve in West Somerset who went onto play cricket for Somerset between 1982 and 87.

Mark recalls that County Gazette competition 45 years ago: “My whole family played club cricket for Kilve in fact on some occasions we could put a whole team out.

“My Mum entered me for the  competition in the County Gazette which I was not happy about - but in the end I did go to the trials and eventually was selected as the winner and was presented with a  cricket bat signed by Ian Botham fand ree coaching during the winter. Part of the prize was that you had to bat and bowl for one over against Ian Botham who selected the winner and thats really how my career started.

“When I went to the finals for the competition Andy Robinson who went onto play rugby for Bath and England, was also a very good cricketer and was one of the others who was there at the finals.

“It was a very strong group who I was competing against- it was tough for me as a state school boy coming up against lots of others from independent schools, which was a tough environment, but it gave me the spur to push myself forwards and to do it.

“As a junior I played for Somerset Under 15s then 16s and the Second team and eventually made my First XI debut.

“At that time one of first coaches who I came across was Peter Robinson who worked with me at the winter nets along with Ken Palmer, who both taught me a great deal.”

Somerset County Gazette: Mark Davis in action.Mark Davis in action. (Image: Richard Walsh)

What was it like back then?

“The cold winter nights in the old indoor school, which was run down and not in the best of health it has to be said, were interesting to say the least. It was situated under where part of the Marcus Trescothick Pavilion now stands. There was no heating , some of the panes of glass were broken in the windows and it was bitterly cold but we were told to just get on with it.

“From those winter evenings I went onto play age group cricket for Somerset and graduated into the second team where I came across characters like Merv Kitchen and Budgie Burgess who were coming to the end of their time at the club. They were great to listen and learn from and you started to learn about the culture of the club, which was really enlightening.”

“I made my first class debut against Worcestershire at New Road in May 1982 which was an incredible feeling and my first ever first class wicket which I will never forget was Ted Hemsley who played both professional football and cricket. It was just an amazing feeling to get that first wicket.”

How did it feel to be playing with the likes of Somerset’s big three- Botham Richards and Garner?

“Even at training I used to pinch myself- and ask what was a boy from a little village like Kilve in West Somerset doing here with these guys- Viv Richards, Ian Botham and Joel Garner, along with others like Peter Denning, Brian Rose and Vic Marks. There were just so many great players there and guys I’d idolised growing up and suddenly I was now training with them and starting to play with them, which was an amazing feeling.

Somerset County Gazette: He was a top bowler of his day.He was a top bowler of his day. (Image: Richard Walsh)

“It took a while to feel that you belonged there because of the greatness of that group- they started to win one day trophies and were dominant. To try and break into that side in the last few years before it broke up was an amazing experience.

“Everywhere we went the matches were sell out crowds. Home matches Sunday League people would queue from early in the morning for a 2pm start- it was just incredible. My dream and ambition of one day playing cricket for Somerset came true which was just fantastic.” 

Mark added: “To me walking out as a Somerset player was everything and just to think it all started with my Mum entering me into the Search for a Star competition in the County Gazette. Since then I have gone onto to enjoy a lifetime of cricket and enjoyed every minute of it!” 

Mark played 77 championship matches for Somerset in which he took 149 wickets at an average of 35.62.  His best season was in 1984 when he claimed 66 wickets including his career best 7 for 55 at Northamptonshire and also record his highest first class innings of 60 not out against Glamorgan.

He also played in 59 one day matches in which he took 50 wickets and won one Benson ands Hedges Gold Award.

After leaving Somerset Mark went onto enjoy 20 years as a cricket coach at Millfield School where he produced such players as Wes Durston, James Hildreth, Craig Kieswetter, Max Waller and Daniel Bell Drummond to mention but a few.