The 2011 County Championship is just around the corner, so what have Surrey fans got in store for this season? 2009 was an improvement on 2008 (it was almost impossible not to be) and 2010 was an improvement on 2009. The fact that the improvements were quite substantial but we still ended the season third from bottom last year is a measure of quite how bad things had gotten at Surrey.
So, 2011 will be an improvement on 2010, right? Well it certainly ought to be. The winter acquisitions of de Bruyn, Maynard and Arafat each add something, though whether Maynard features much in the CC side remains to be seen. But de Bruyn and Arafat in particular add a great deal.
The middle order was a real problem for us last season, specifically the number four slot. Perhaps that was partially because the openers were also poor and therefore the number four was under more pressure. Either way, de Bruyn in at number four would make sense to me. His medium pace to fill in here and there doesn't hurt either.
Yasir Arafat's all round talents are similarly welcome, his intelligent and potent bowling will be a useful foil for Dernbach and Meaker's dangerous but very occasionally expensive offerings. And his ability with the bat is not to be sniffed at, four first class hundreds is confirmation of that. How Chris Jordan gets on will be interesting, if we're lucky he'll pick up where he left off before injury in 2009, another genuine allrounder in the side wouldn't go amiss.
Michael Brown's return after a full year out is like signing a new player too. If he can add some much needed stability at the top, perhaps forming a handy understanding with Jason Roy, big totals should be well within reach more often than not. Early season we will be without Ramprakash which is a blow of untold proportions, so the number three slot is temporarily up for grabs. If Kevin Pietersen is still nursing his hernia scars, I think Captain Fantastic Rory Hamilton-Brown should step in. He has the talent but needs to show he has the application. It would also mean the top three could in fact sound like only two people, Roy Brown and Hamilton Brown.
Last year they proved themselves able to steamroller sides (Northamptonshire at the Oval) and be steamrollered (Sussex at Hove). The former must become the rule and the latter the exception. Needless and brainless collapses like the one at Worcester (chasing 369, the highest score in the top six was 35) have to be eliminated.
So in summary we need to be scrapping at the top, but expecting too much from such a young side will only end in tears. Simply, we should be aiming for more wins (at least six) and fewer defeats (no more than four) than last time round. If we're in the fight for promotion in the final analysis, more's the better.
Key players: Yasir Arafat and Rory Hamilton-Brown. Arafat's talent and experience will lead the line for Surrey and our young skipper needs to keep his team playing for him, while stepping up a gear with the bat.