Surrey travel to Wantage Road tomorrow knowing that a win over top-of-the-table Northamptonshire will move them a big step closer to an unlikely promotion.
Chris Adams has named a 13 man squad including the 19 year old fast bowler George Edwards to take on the leaders, the squad and possible XI is as follows:
12th men: Ansari, Edwards
As much as I want to see Zafar Ansari play as much first team cricket as possible I think it is unlikely that Adams will go into a four day game with only two frontline seam bowling options. That means an unlikely reprieve for Jordan who despite bowling well against Leicestershire returned nothing in the wickets column in that game and his line and length in the CB40 game yesterday was woeful.
Adams could yet spring a surprise though, especially in light of de Bruyn's increased bowling workload lately, and play Ansari as the third spinner. Personally I think that would be the better option. In two fewer games than Jordan this year Ansari has taken one more wicket and has been significantly less expensive in doing so. I hope Meaker is given a chance to recapture his best form and isn't restricted to cameo spells as third change bowler. He hasn't been right on the money since his injury early in the season but he still has 29 wickets to his name from just 7 matches. On his day he is devastating, and that day will come around again soon. Ojha should continue the good work that saw him pick up four wickets for 48 runs in the last match.
Again the shortage of genuine batting options means the top six pick themselves and after Davies got his hundred last week, Hamilton-Brown will be looking to follow suit. There is still no definitive word on whether Ramprakash will play on next season but just to be on the safe side I'd like a hundred from him. Tom Maynard, who has only passed 30 once in his last 11 visits to the crease, could also do with some big runs.
We seem to have played Northants an awful lot over the last couple of seasons and our last two visits to Wantage Road have seen us come back with two wins. However this season they are a much tougher prospect than in the past and they've only lost one match all season. Whilst they've had no standout batsman they do have six men with over 500 Championship runs under their belt, and 11 hundreds all told. They also have four bowlers with over 30 Championship wickets for good measure too. 200 points on the board with two games still to play doesn't happen by accident but we are capable of beating them, and having had them 163-7 at the Oval in April we should already have done so once this season.
A win would shrink the current 41 point gap to Northants to something around 20 points with a game in hand. With Middlesex in almost as dominant position as is possible against Leicestershire it looks increasingly like it will have to be Northants that we overhaul if we are to win promotion. Anything other than a win would more or less seal promotion for the two sides above us. No pressure then.