Monday, 6 August 2012

Surrey go north for crunch Durham match

Five games remain for Surrey to retain their first division status, the first of those five begins tomorrow against relegation rivals Durham.

Chris Adams has returned from his mid-season break to name the following 13 man squad, and a possible XI is as follows:

Rory Burns
Zafar Ansari
Arun Harinath
Steven Davies
Zander de Bruyn
Jason Roy
Chris Jordan
Murali Kartik
Jon Lewis
Tim Linley
Jade Dernbach

12th men: Gareth Batty, Matthew Spriegel

This is as tough an XI to pick as we've had all season. Given the nature of the pitch it is a bad time for Adams to have to do without Stuart Meaker and Chris Tremlett. 90% of the wickets at the Riverside this season have gone down to seam bowlers. Spinners have been successful just 24 times with the red ball in 2012, although intriguingly 14 of them were in the most recent fixture there where Ian Blackwell ran riot with a second innings seven wicket haul to win the game against Australia A. That game aside, I would not expect a spin-friendly pitch to be prepared and given the experience at Guildford, Batty may well miss out again.

Therefore it seems likely that quick bowlers will play a significant part, which makes a reprieve for Chris Jordan likely despite a poor showing at Edgbaston. He has 10 wickets this season at a cost of 50 apiece, and has given away more than four runs an over in the process. Given that he is only averaging 12 with the bat, I wonder whether a gamble on George Edwards might have been a better bet. A return to form for Lewis and Linley would be timely, while Dernbach looked very sharp indeed in the CB40 game against Nottinghamshire.

The batting nerves were settled somewhat on a placid pitch in Birmingham. The likes of Ansari, Burns and Roy may well find runs harder to come by with Graham Onions steaming in on a green pitch though. All of their fighting spirit and character, of which they showed plenty in the last Championship fixture, will need to be summoned to post a good total. I would rather see Spriegel named than de Bruyn but I doubt Adams will take that step.

Durham have had a wretched season but things have been looking up lately. All of their batsmen are averaging under 30 but they are not short on experience with Collingwood and Benkenstein in their top order (although they seem set to give a Championship debut to Keaton Jennings tomorrow). They also have the extravagant talents of Ben Stokes to call on. Their bowling is where the real strength lies. In Onions, Thorp and Claydon they have plenty of experience, plus Scott Borthwick should the pitch offer any turn.

We currently lie seventh in the Championship table, level on points with Lancashire and 15 points clear of our opponents in this game. Any points in this fixture will take us above Lancashire, but given the respective placings of the two teams, we have to be looking at a win. The weather is set fair and the Riverside pitch is almost certain to offer a result. Defeat would be a huge setback but victory could be the spark to fire an impressive run in.

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