Chris Adams has named a 13 man squad for the first match of the Twenty20 season against Essex tomorrow night. The major surprises are the absence of Tom Maynard and the presence of Mark Ramprakash.
The squad and possible XI is as follows:
Zander de Bruyn
Bench: Gareth Batty, Stuart Meaker
The selection of Ramprakash is a surprise not because of a lack of quality on his part, though his lack of form is well documented, but because he didn't play a single limited overs fixture in 2011. Despite claiming he was fit and ready to play in all formats, the feeling was that Adams had him pegged as a Championship-only player. Apparently not, in Maynard's absence (due to a shoulder injury after that car accident he had at the weekend) the coach has opted for experience over youth. I personally would have looked to the likes of Rory Burns, or Tom Lancefield before going back to Ramprakash, but t'was not to be. It's hardly a vote of confidence in the young batsmen at the club.
The balance of the squad suggests that it'll come down to a choice between two of Spriegel, Ansari and Batty, as well as a straight choice between Meaker and Dernbach. Nannes and Kartik, as the hired guns, will surely start. Batty's form this season with the bat has been patchy, as has Spriegel's but the former's recent Second XI fifty (and a very impressive one by all accounts) may give him the edge. Ansari seems likely to play whenever available, he represents one of the brightest spots anywhere on the Surrey horizon at the moment.
The choice between Meaker and Dernbach is less clear cut, Meaker's form of late has been superb but Dernbach brings his allsorts deliveries - vital in T20. Given that Dernbach is only available for this game before heading off with England, it would seem odd to name him in the squad and then not pick him.
The batting in this game will be more reliant than ever on a strong start from Roy and Davies (or Davies and Hamilton-Brown if Adams elects to go back to that pairing to open). With Ramprakash and de Bruyn in questionable form, the time may be for Gary Wilson to step up to the mark and deliver big runs, as he has been doing in the Second XI of late.
Spriegel and Ansari are more than capable of adding quick runs from the lower order, especially the latter. I often think, as Spriegel tends to take a few balls to get going, he might be better used up the order in Twenty20s, but Adams doesn't seem to agree.
Twelve overs from Nannes, Dernbach and Kartik is plenty for a captain to play with, as long as there are runs in play. Eight more overs from Ansari and a combination of Spriegel, de Bruyn and Hamilton-Brown should also stop teams from running riot completely.
Despite a very comfortable win over Essex at the Oval last year, they are still a very dangerous side and ended 2011 with an almost identical T20 record to us. The in-form Ravi Bopara is not available, but in Shah, ten Doeschate, Napier and Frankin they have some of the most destructive Twenty20 batsmen on the county circuit. Their bowling contains a mixture of experience in Masters and raw left-arm pace in Mills, along with the tricky spin of Tim Phillips. The one area where we comprehensively out-did them last year was in the field, we'll have to exploit that again this year wherever possible - that could prove the difference.
The forecast for tomorrow evening is inconclusive, but it looks as though rain could again play its part. It should though be a fine game between two pretty evenly matched sides, Surrey definitely have enough on paper to come out on top.