Thursday, 3 May 2012

Depleted Somerset still a threat

Judging by the interview with Chris Adams on the Surrey website the Oval outfield seems to have stood up remarkably well to the persistent rain of the last couple of weeks. Everything looks set for the beginning of our CB40 title defence against Somerset tomorrow.

The 13 man squad and possible XI is as follows:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Jacques Rudolph
Tom Maynard
Zander de Bruyn
Matthew Spriegel
Zafar Ansari
Jon Lewis
Stuart Meaker
Jade Dernbach

Bench: Gareth Batty, Gary Wilson

The only surprise is Zafar Ansari who is available earlier than expected. It's a mark of how highly he is regarded that Adams is calling him into the squad before he's finished his studies for this year. He's another, along with Roy, who I think should be in the team whenever possible so Gareth Batty may miss out. Ansari has not played a huge amount of competitive cricket lately, but against a Lancashire attack featuring Saj Mahmood, Simon Kerrigan and Kyle Hogg back in April he scored an unbeaten 50 in the second innings and top-scored in the first. He will be replaced by Tim Linley for Sunday's game with Scotland though, as he returns to Cambridge.

The presence of Jacques Rudolph puts something of a spanner in the works. In four CB40 knocks for Yorkshire last season he was a standout performer with 282 runs at 94, including a sparkling 132 against a Sussex bowling attack featuring Wayne Parnell and Monty Panesar. He opened the batting and if he is to do the same this year, Adams will have to split his preferred 40 over openers, Hamilton-Brown and Davies. If it was down to me I would bat him at number four, keeping Roy in the crucial number three slot but splitting him and Maynard. A three-four-five-six of Roy, Rudolph, Maynard and de Bruyn is a good mix of power and experience.

I wonder if Adams will be nervous of going into a game against a powerful Somerset batting lineup with only three front line seamers (although admittedly three very good ones), which might mean Batty is ultimately preferred to one of Ansari or Spriegel.

Somerset, even without injured captain Trescothick are a formidable batting side. Nick Compton is one of the form batsmen in English cricket having racked up 715 first class runs already in 2012. Jos Buttler has a frankly absurd List A record - averaging 67 at a strike rate of almost 130. It's easy to forget his impressive 86 from 72 balls in the Lord's final where only one other player passed 26 as it was in a losing cause, but it was a top class knock. Kieswetter, Trego, Suppiah and Hildreth make for a powerful top order.

Their bowling however looks far less healthy. Gemaal Hussain and Steve Kirby are injured and Alfonso Thomas is in India, leaving them with no experienced bowlers whatsoever. What they lack in experience though, they make up for in potential. Craig Meschede and Lewis Gregory are very highly thought of and George Dockrell, the young Irish left arm spinner will always be a threat.

Somerset will be out for revenge after losing last year's final and they are a dangerous side. However I think the addition of Rudolph to our middle order makes us a stronger, more balanced side than 2011. Our seamers should look to exploit the conditions, and our batsmen should look to exploit the inexperience of the opposition.

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