Due to a poorly timed (but nonetheless very welcome) holiday, I'll be taking a short two week break from the blog. Good luck to Surrey in the four day Gloucestershire game starting today, and the plethora of Twenty20s still to play through to the end of the month, particularly the Middlesex game. Hopefully I'll come back to a bunch of victories!
Surrey could field a side containing seven players aged 25 or under in the Championship game against Gloucestershire starting at the Oval on Sunday, with both Matt Dunn and Zafar Ansari named in the 12 man squad.
It's something of a new look squad with no room for any of Schofield, Jordan or Wilson and still no sign of the injured Brown. More worryingly there is no news on the progress of Stuart Meaker who has now been out of cricket for a month.
The squad and expected XI is as follows:
Zander de Bruyn
12th man: Zafar Ansari
Much will probably depend on the pitch in influencing Adams' decision to go with Ansari or not. As heroic as his T20 debut was I think it unlikely that he will replace Batty so it will probably come down to a choice between him and Dunn. The pitches have been leaning towards favouring the seamers lately so I suspect Dunn will get the nod.
There is a lingering concern that Batty and Arafat at seven and eight constitutes too long a tail, especially as since making a good start to the season Batty has registered only one score above 20 in his last seven innings. However Arafat's form with the bat has been heading in the right direction, here's hoping he can continue his up-turn in form with the ball as well.
There are few form-related problems with the top six batsmen, all have made runs of some description of late and the onus will be on them to post a good base. Dernbach, Linley, Dunn and Arafat represents quite a nicely balanced seam attack and Batty can, as ever, hold up an end even if he has only taken five wickets in his last four matches.
The opposition are not the strongest, but they're just three points behind us and there are players not to be taken lightly. Jon Lewis and Ian Saxelby have 49 wickets between them in the seven games so far and in the batting Will Gidman and Chris Taylor have a weight of runs behind them this season. Hamish Marshall and Kane Williamson too are players who can do damage.
On paper we are probably the stronger side, certainly our batting is stronger and if the bowling attack bowls to their ability we have the edge on that measure as well. On the back of the comeback win against Derbyshire away from home, this game is a great opportunity to get to the halfway point in the season with 100 points or more.
Surrey are making the trek to Taunton, probably as I write but a cursory glance at the weather forecast for tomorrow suggests it might all be in vain.
Should they get a game in however, the same 14 man squad named for Monday's game with Essex has been selected, the squad and expected team is as follows:
Bench: Linley, Schofield, Spriegel
After Monday's impressive bowling and fielding performance, Adams may well go in with the same XI and I wouldn't be against that. However despite the performance there are still question marks. Wilson made a first ball duck and Spriegel came and went for just eight runs and then bowled a solitary over for 13 runs. Adams may feel that he can get more overs and as many runs from Gareth Batty. That said, Spriegel is excellent in the field - the area where we were streets ahead of Essex, so it's a tough call. That Ansari is more or less a shoo-in is a measure of his composure on debut.
Wilson has looked in very poor form for some time, almost since the start of the season in fact, but there is no other specialist batsman in the squad. It's possible Adams may think Schofield can offer more with the bat but I think that unlikely. An in-form Wilson will score runs in T20 and maybe they're just betting on something clicking with him.
Somerset come into this game on the back of two consecutive washouts at Taunton, but in between those they've recorded scores of 235, 90 and 225...so if that pattern continues they're due another failure. I can but hope. There's not much I can say about a batting lineup of Trescothick, Kieswetter, Trego, Hildreth and Buttler, plus the power-hitting of van der Merwe, that hasn't already been written or said. Mind you, I said that about the Essex lot too, and look what happened there.
Although there is likely to be no Alfonso Thomas, in Hussain, Kirby and Murali Kartik they still have a more-than-capable Twenty20 attack.
As the reigning T20 Cup runners-up Somerset are rightly seen as one of the best in the country and if the weather behaves it'll be a massive challenge for us. There is still significant pressure on the top 5 with the tail unlikely to add too many. The last three opening partnerships read 0, 2 and 1, both Hamilton-Brown and Davies will be after a big score. The performance against Essex showed that we are capable of beating very good sides. If they can maintain that kind of level of performance we'll run them very close.
Chris Adams' brave selection of 19 year old Zafar Ansari paid off in impressive style tonight as the youngster put in an impressive, man-of-the-match-winning performance against a very strong Essex side tonight. The sooner he graduates from Cambridge University, the better.
Rory Hamilton-Brown did the right thing after winning the toss, he chose to bat first. The surface looked a very good one, but not long after the innings started it began to look decidedly less good. It is now three innings out of four that the Hamilton-Brown/Davies partnership has failed to last even beyond the first over - it would appear we don't even have a limited overs opening partnership any longer.
Davies was the first to go tonight, and Hamilton-Brown followed soon after to a very ugly shot, the ball seemed to stop in the surface. Roy and Maynard put on a good 40 partnership before Roy too was undone by the surface. Maynard then combined with de Bruyn for a partnership which threatened to muster a big total, de Bruyn was playing the ball late and Maynard was playing sensibly.
However the loss of three wickets inside an over seemed to derail the innings completely, before Zafar Ansari almost single-handedly dragged the total to 154. The target on that surface was by no means easy, but for a batting lineup such as Essex's it was very gettable.
Yasir Arafat began the bowling in the worst possible way, five wides down the leg side, but next ball he had Shah caught at third man. Thereafter it was an efficient if not exceptional bowling display. What was exceptional was the fielding, the area in which we vastly out-performed Essex tonight. We caught well and three run-outs is no accident, even if the opposition did themselves no favours at all.
Nannes, Dernbach, Arafat and de Bruyn all did a good job with the ball but it was Ansari's cool demeanour which stole the hour. Having finished the batting with a fine six, he bowled four overs for just 24 runs. He was a touch on the short side, but no one really got hold of his bowling.
Tonight was a Surrey win without any of the big guns really hitting their straps, which is encouraging. It felt at the end of our innings like we were perhaps 20 runs short, but when a side with the batting of Essex can only post 111 all out, I can't really complain. There is still room for Ramprakash to come in for the horribly out-of-form Wilson, but that compromises the fielding unit somewhat, so all that is missing is really one of our top three going on to get a big score.
We showed a small percentage of the enormous potential of this side tonight, let's make this the starting point for something much bigger and much better.
The message to Surrey's (largely) mis-firing batsmen from Chris Adams is clear: you get the runs - because he doesn't appear to favour picking the extra batsman, left-arm spinning allrounder Zafar Ansari - all of 19 years old - could be set to make his T20 debut on Monday night.
The rest of the squad remains the same as Kevin Pietersen makes his expected return to the England fold, the squad and expected XI (though it's very difficult to read Adams' thinking on this one) is as follows:
Bench: Arafat, Ansari, Schofield
The top five, as ever, pick themselves. Three questions remain beyond that. Firstly, which of Schofield, Spriegel and Ansari should play? Adams seems to place a lot of faith in Schofield but for me he just has not delivered enough to warrant selection. Putting Ansari in would represent a massive gamble and for that reason I think Spriegel might get another go. I would personally be tempted to go with Ansari because his left arm spin offers a useful foil to Batty's off spin.
The second question is whether Adams will be bold enough to drop Arafat - on form he simply has to, he just hasn't looked enough of a threat and although he was less expensive yesterday he needs to be taking wickets. The third question is whether Adams will go for a batsman to replace KP, or go with a third spinning allrounder. This may be dictated to some extent by whether he plays Arafat. If he doesn't I think a batsman is absolutely necessary as in Dernbach, Linley and Nannes we genuinely have three number 11s.
The bottom line remains though that our top five ought to be setting/chasing higher totals than they are. On that note I would also like to see Hamilton-Brown bat first if he wins the toss, I think we're a better side setting a total, notwithstanding the demolition of Gloucestershire 10 days ago.
As for Essex...well, what can you say? A batting lineup which includes Shah, Bopara, ten Doeschate, Napier and Scott Styris is enough to make Rory's blood run cold. Their bowling isn't half bad either, all of ten Doeschate, Napier, Styris and Bopara can turn their arms over to good effect but just for good measure they've got Masters, Tim Southee and Chris Wright, all genuine threats in their own right. This is probably as tough as it gets, but they are beatable as Sussex showed last week.
The team will have been confident of bagging four points from the Glamorgan and Gloucestershire games this weekend, but they have just one. It's been a damp squib in more ways than one. Going out tomorrow night and overhauling an excellent Essex side will do wonders and if the top five play at anything close to their ability, and Dernbach, Linley and Nannes continue their sterling work, it is possible.
Nine days ago Surrey meted out a severe mauling on Gloucestershire, today the Gladiators returned the favour with a hugely comfortable 46 run win.
The result was made all the more disappointing after Hamilton-Brown won the toss and sent the opposition in to bat and duly had them reduced to 26-3. But a combination of Ian Cockbain, Alex Gidman, Chris Taylor and some poor Surrey bowling saw Gloucestershire to a very competitive total of 168.
The game was however played on a small ground and with Surrey's much vaunted batting lineup the total was by no means out of reach. For the second time in consecutive innings Surrey lost one of their openers in the first over. The game against Gloucestershire at the Oval aside, the opening pair of Hamilton-Brown and Davies which fired so often last year has delivered very little in all limited overs cricket which has been a huge disappointment.
Thereafter the awaited recovery never arrived. With the required rate approaching 10 an over, de Bruyn and Pietersen combined saw out 51 balls for 48 runs. Their 47 run partnership over 5 overs would've been valuable if either of them had used the platform to cash in, but neither did. Aside from 20 from Tom Maynard the rest of the batting order contributed very little, it was a hugely disappointing performance.
Adams has a problem on his hands now. Four matches in we have just three points on the board, and have played probably the weakest side in the group twice. Though Chris Schofield has played four matches he hasn't a single wicket to his name, Arafat is only one better off, Nannes and Dernbach have shouldered the burden admirably but it's not quite enough. The return of Stuart Meaker cannot come soon enough, in the meantime I think Linley (or possibly Dunn if Adams is feeling especially aggressive) must come in and de Bruyn should bowl more overs. There is then a case to bring in an extra batsman to replace Schofield, how long can we leave Ramprakash on the sidelines?
On the batting front the top order simply has to deliver more. The kind of power they have is not translating into big totals consistently enough. They have all the talent in the world, it's time to deliver.
Thanks to the ridiculous format of this tournament there is still plenty of time to turn things around but a game on Monday against an excellent Essex side will not be an easy way to kick start that turnaround.
Update: Thanks to the comment below (and @ColsaCricket) or pointing out the article in the Evening Standard where Ramps says his knee isn't quite up to the rigours of T20 cricket just yet - think Adams might want to persuade him that it is!
Kevin Pietersen's Twenty20 debut ended in a no result, a point apiece for Surrey and Glamorgan. KP did find time to take a fine catch on the boundary rope at long on, but he didn't get a bat.
That the match ended the way it did, just after 9pm as the rain which briefly abated began to fall hard again, was a crying shame. Glamorgan set 167, a good target but not out of Surrey's reach, it would've been a great chase.
The Glamorgan innings was a funny mix. Glamorgan dispatched the first 10 overs for 88 runs and lost only Alviro Petersen, to the excellent Dirk Nannes for 13. Mark Cosgrove played some great shots but there were too many poor balls from Dernbach and Arafat, and Cosgrove and Jim Allenby dealt very well with the spinners - their four overs went for 37 combined.
However the introduction of Zander de Bruyn into the attack pulled things back for Surrey. He accounted for Cosgrove and two overs later he bowled Ben Wright. He was just wobbling it off the seam but it worked very well. Dernbach also bowled a good over for good measure, taking two wickets during a spell in which Glamorgan lost 4-34 in six overs.
Allenby and David Brown threatened to heave the total close to the 180 mark but the last eight or nine balls from Dernbach and Nannes were excellent.
The rain began to fall in the interval, there was briefly hope of getting some sort of game, even just a five over thrash, but it was not to be. There are some positives to be drawn from today, Nannes' bowling was superb, Dernbach came back well and de Bruyn did a good job as fourth seamer. Arafat had another game to forget, rarely threatening and his four overs disappeared for 41 runs, his return this season is 17 wickets from 12 games in all competitions at 49 apiece, where is the Arafat of old? His place in the game tomorrow surely has to go to Tim Linley.
Down to Gloucestershire tomorrow who look to have improved somewhat from their first couple of games, weather permitting it should be more of a test than the game at the Oval.
The brief non-cricketing interlude caused by the proposed introduction of 'walk on girls' will now hopefully pass, the club having decided to shelve the idea indefinitely. Alright the u-turn could've been communicated better and it was a monumentally silly idea in the first place, but credit to the club for changing their position. An old Spanish proverb goes "a wise man changes his mind, a fool never will", the club's members objected to the idea and 48 hours later they canned it, end of story. No one at the club will have intended any offence to be caused (though it doubtless caused plenty), let's draw a line under it.
So, the cricket. The big piece of news to report is that Kevin Pietersen looks set to play his first competitive Twenty20 match for the club having been temporarily released from England duty - alas the same cannot be said of Chris Tremlett who is retained by the ECB for the time being. The full squad for the two games against Glamorgan and the return Gloucestershire fixture coming over the next couple of days, and the expected XI is:
Bench: Schofield, Linley, Wilson
I'm a bit surprised that Matt Dunn and Tom Jewell were not named, particularly the former, perhaps they don't want Dunn to incur any Cosgrove-shaped scars at such an early stage in his career. Given that Pietersen has to play and none of the other batsmen are likely to be dropped I live in hope that I will get my wish that we will play six full time batters.
There remain two final selection question marks, Spriegel or Schofield and Linley or Arafat. Although he was dropped for the last game I get the feeling that Arafat wasn't quite fully fit against Gloucestershire, he certainly didn't look to be at full pace, so although Linley has bowled really well I think Arafat's week of rest allied to his biffing ability might just give him the nod. If Arafat can find some as-yet elusive form, an attack of him, Dernbach and the thankfully-fit Dirk Nannes ought to be very dangerous.
The Spriegel-Schofield question is tricky, Schofield's batting has been in better nick, but I prefer Spriegel the bowler. With de Bruyn in the side we can afford to pick the superior batsman, but given Hamilton-Brown has barely bowled the South African so far I think he might elect to go with Spriegel in the hope that he can bowl four good overs and bag a few runs for good measure, but it's a close-run thing.
Glamorgan have a won-one-lost-one record so far from their two games although last night they came as close as anyone has this year to beating Hampshire in very nearly defending 120 at the Rose Bowl. In Cosgrove and Petersen they have a mighty fine Twenty20 opening pair and their batting doesn't end there with Allenby, Wagg and Wright down the order. With James Harris absent from their 14 man squad their bowling strength lies in the talent and experience of Croft and Cosker who have given away just 5.4 runs per over from their 15 overs this season, taking 6 wickets in the process.
Last year we failed to defend 168 at the Oval against the Welsh side, one that may have had Tom Maynard in it but on the flip side there was no Alviro Petersen for them in 2010, so Surrey won't be taking anything for granted. There's millions of runs in our top order as the game against Gloucestershire showed, and the addition of the extra bat should allow more of a margin than we had against Hampshire. If we can deal with the Glamorgan spinners we should be right on course.
Surrey made an announcement on the official website that has somehow escaped my attention for all of 24 hours, apparently Phil 'The Power' Taylor and one of his darts-playing colleagues will be playing some sort of exhibition match involving fans and a cash prize.
But that's not what I'm writing about here. No, what I'm writing about is the announcement, included in the very same article, that Surrey's players will be accompanied as they walk to the wicket by 'walk on girls'. Yes, you read that right.
As Rory Hamilton-Brown and Steven Davies walk to the wicket on Monday night, and for that matter every other batsman, they will be joined by a woman, for no discernible reason - other than to 'add a touch of glamour' as the official site so delicately puts it. Is it just for the banter? Just to keep their mind occupied during that walk of, oh I don't know, a minute at the most?
I'm not even annoyed at the pointlessness of it all, that is a given, what I'm annoyed about is how old fashioned and utterly out of date this idea is. Unless the idea is some sort of extension of the mascots, i.e. young cricketers or cricket fans get an opportunity to meet their heroes (in which case why isn't it 'walk on girls and boys'?) then it is a deeply sexist and backwards step.
What do the Surrey Ladies team make of this? Barely two years after England's women's team won the World Cup and the World Twenty20, what do the young girls in the age group sides think of it all? Is their role at the club to be reduced to merely escorting their male counterparts to the wicket? At a time when cricket needs to be broadening its appeal, this has the potential to do precisely the opposite.
There is still time for the club to do the right thing and nip this idea in the bud. I'm sure the skipper and Davies can manage without company, and if any of the other lads feel lonely on the walk to the wicket, well there'll be 11 blokes from Essex out there to talk to. I would urge the club in the strongest terms not to do this, we can all pretend this never happened.
The run of six consecutive limited overs wins had to end at some point, and so it was at the Rose Bowl tonight, Surrey were comfortably beaten by a very good Hampshire side.
Surrey lost the toss and Cork sent Hamilton-Brown and Davies out to bat. Looking to carry on the good work from last night, Davies was clean bowled by Cork himself for a golden duck, the worst possible start. Hamilton-Brown and Roy then made good headway until the former was bowled by Danny Briggs, the latter was run out soon after, neither had passed 20. Tom Maynard managed just three runs from five deliveries as the pressure on the top order told.
Wickets fell at all-too regular intervals and predictably the innings stalled. If it sounds like I'm repeating myself, it's probably because I am, if the top order fireworks don't happen we don't have a reliable Plan B, the lower middle order is too bits-and-pieces, and Imran Tahir was too good. De Bruyn and Schofield did a decent job of hauling the total into respectable territory but 140 was never likely to be enough.
Lumb and Adams, one of the stronger opening pairs on the county circuit, raced out of the blocks at 10 runs an over. By the time Linley bowled Adams the target had been whittled down to under 100. Worryingly Dirk Nannes didn't bowl after his initial two over spell, and was replaced on the field by Gary Wilson. The last thing we need is an injury to another of our seamers.
Vince and McKenzie calmly reduced the total, never having to take big risks. Hampshire are a well balanced T20 side, exemplified by their comprehensive win over Somerset, another very strong side, on Wednesday. If we are to compete with the very best T20 sides, and I think we have the raw materials to do so, I really think an extra batsman is required, we cannot continue to gamble on just five out-and-out bats, we will get found out too often - not every time, but too often to be considered genuine challengers.
It's not the end of the world, it's one defeat and there's still 14 games to play in the group stages. I just hope Adams doesn't see this simply as a blip, the formula isn't quite right (but neither is it wildly wrong), it needs a tweak or two.
Any lingering fears that this year's Twenty20 competition would get off to the non-start that last year's did were dispelled rapidly this evening as Surrey romped to an 8 wicket win against Gloucestershire.
Surrey got off to a great start with Alex Gidman caught behind off debutant Dirk Nannes, and two overs later he had Craig Taylor caught off a top edge. Surrey took regular wickets thanks to impressive bowling from Nannes, Tim Linley and Gareth Batty in particular. Yasir Arafat and Chris Schofield were expensive, the former in particular was poor and bowled too much on the legs. Matt Spriegel didn't bowl terribly but I don't think his bowling was best employed, I remain convinced that Spriegel's bowling works better earlier in an innings.
That Schofield and Spriegel both only bowled half their overs, and de Bruyn was not called upon at all only served to emphasise that there was room for the extra batsman in my opinion, apologies for belabouring the point.
Not that he was needed in the end as Gloucestershire's total of 155 was made to look woefully inadequate. Hamilton-Brown and Davies resurrected their powerful partnership which was so successful last year but has been absent in the CB40 games this year, they put on 100 in 10 overs. Davies was his usual excellent self square of the wicket and while Hamilton-Brown trailed him initially he started to open up towards the 10 over mark.
Jason Roy looked in good touch, especially for a man who was eventually out for only 10 off 13 balls and Tom Maynard was barely needed. Davies ended 92 not out from just 55 balls, he dealt particularly well with Muralitharan and Surrey coasted home with 19 balls remaining.
It means Surrey have still only been beaten once in 2011 and today I really got the feeling this was when the batting began to approach top gear. I may not think the selection was 100% right, but I cannot fault the performance, well played.
Chris Adams has named a fourteen man squad for the first two Twenty20 matches against Gloucestershire tomorrow and Hampshire on Friday. If fourteen seems a little on the large side, I suspect that is because Matt Dunn was a late inclusion after his spectacular Championship debut. There is no Mark Ramprakash who it now seems is focusing if not solely then largely on Championship cricket. The squad and the XI that I expect Adams to field is as follows:
Bench: Jewell, Wilson, Dunn
It is more or less the same formula Adams has employed for some time in the CB40 games and I have made my feelings about the surfeit of bowling options it provides clear. I cannot argue with the top five above, but the lack of out and out batsmen in the lower middle order worries me. As I said yesterday Spriegel has earned his place but I think number six is a place too high in the order. Schofield has been in good form with the bat, including a fifty yesterday against a very strong Hampshire 2nd XI, but his bowling has been off-colour this season. Batty has hit a rough patch of form after an excellent start to the season. If it was down to me I would be tempted to go with one of the three, probably Spriegel, treat de Bruyn as a genuine allrounder too and significantly strengthen the batting by bringing in Burns or Lancefield. The lack of in-form batsmen in the squad may be forcing Adams' hand here somewhat.
Arafat and Nannes will almost certainly play given their pedigree in this form of the game, hopefully both will hit the ground running. The last bowling slot will probably come down to Linley or Dunn, Linley being a bit more of a known quantity will probably give him the nod.
There will be significant pressure on the top five who will have to face no less a bowler than Muttiah Muralitharan. They are a talented bunch but they must also bat with a degree of responsibility. Gloucestershire are not a one man band either, Kane Williamson, the young Kiwi is a very promising batsman, the Gidmans have been in good form and who knows what Kevin O'Brien might do.
As for Hampshire on Friday, it looks like Shahid Afridi will be unavailable after the PCB revoked his clearance. While this is a boon for us as he is such a quality performer, it's hugely disappointing from a cricketing point of view. They nonetheless have Danny Briggs and Imran Tahir to do the spinning, that pair along with Cork, Mascarenhas and Jones make Hampshire one of the stronger bowling sides. Their batting is powerful too; Vince, Adams, Lumb and Mackenzie are all quality performers.
A repeat of last year's disaster is out of the question tomorrow. We are a much better side than we were 12 months ago and we should be able to beat Gloucestershire, Hampshire will be a much tougher prospect, Afridi or no Afridi. Our limited overs form has been impressive so far in 2011 and these two games present an ideal chance to continue that.
A hugely impressive all round performance from Surrey over the last two days saw them cruise to their second Championship win of the season. That it was achieved at a canter, with Maynard cracking a six to win with 7 wickets in hand, is testament to some impressive batting and bowling.
Principle among those impressing today was Matt Dunn. The 19 year old quick bowler should have been in the side from the word go in my view but since replacing Dernbach he has been hugely impressive. On Championship debut he returned figures of 5-56 including the wicket of Wes Durston which triggered the collapse of six wickets for 59 runs. Tim Linley also bowled superbly, in truth he probably earned some of Dunn's wickets for him by going at just 1.6 runs an over, although Linley himself finished with 4-26 to complete a his first 10 wicket haul. Derbyshire were blown away for 99.
The aggressive batting that made a result even possible yesterday then made another appearance as Surrey re-emerged with the target just 142 runs. Roy and Hamilton-Brown's opening stand of 62 in six overs belied the nature of a pitch on which Derbyshire struggled. Although they were both out within an over of each other, de Bruyn and Ramprakash saw the side almost home before Maynard stepped up to finish the job.
Derbyshire are one of the weakest sides in Division Two, certainly one that we should be beating, so the result itself should not come as a surprise, but the manner in which we came back from a very lacklustre first innings bowling performance did, and a pleasant surprise it was too. I've been complaining of late that when we force an opening we have failed to take advantage of it, well today they did just that, and huge credit to the whole side.
This is just the beginning though, we need to win probably five or our remaining nine games to be in with a promotion chance, that is no mean feat. The win today is a great way to start the push.
Son of the late Zimbabwe all-rounder, Tom Curran may have only played a handful of fixtures for Surrey's age group and Second XI teams, but he's already very highly thought of.
Like his late father Kevin he's an all-rounder. During the pre-season tour of South Africa Curran scored well in the intra-squad match against some high class bowlers. He also bagged himself a five-for in a Second XI match last season against Kent, including the wicket of the highly rated all-rounder Matt Coles.
Like his fellow academy player Dominic Sibley, 2013 may be a year too early for progression to the senior squad. However his development should be watched closely as a hot prospect for the future.
Donate to the Tom Maynard Trust here. The Trust has been set up in his name to help aspiring sportspeople disadvantaged cricketers and other sportspeople who require support with different aspects of their career development.