There was a time way back in 2008 when our battery of pace bowlers could only fairly be described as "flat". An attack led by Pedro Collins and Jimmy Ormond, neither in their prime, wasn't frightening anyone. Fast-forward five years and now its a challenge to find a better collection of bowlers in either division. With everyone fit and firing our bowlers will create chances on most surfaces.
Given that Surrey's ranks of allrounders have steadily been depleted in recent years, with the departure of first Chris Schofield and then Chris Jordan and Matt Spriegel, I've included the remainder in the preview below.
Meaker has been a key part of our four day attack for a couple of years now. As with so many young express fast bowlers he’s had his share of injuries, missing 12 matches over the last two seasons (though some of those have been due to Lions duty) but when he has played he’s been crucial. He’s taken 116 wickets at 24 since the start of 2010, no one has taken more five wicket hauls for Surrey in that time. He can be devastating with the red ball, never more so than during the Somerset game at the Oval last year when he took 8-52, including the prize wickets of Hildreth and Kieswetter. He's been away with various England squads this winter but the returns haven't been stellar, just 11 wickets in 10 matches (though much of his cricket has been in tough subcontinental conditions). He'll be much more of a handful once the county season gets back underway.
2012 wasn't Dernbach's finest. He was identified by the club as one of a "small minority group" who last year became "entrapped" in the pitfalls of London life. Dernbach is a player who divides opinion, on and off the pitch, but I for one think he deserves another (final) chance with Surrey. He's played his heart out for the club, occasionally through injury and never without plenty of guts, from a very early age and above all he's an unusually talented bowler. In the longer format he's under rated and can bowl economical spells, although he's not always as probing as you'd like. In limited overs matches he is a match winner. He had a torrid international winter, taking just five wickets in four ODIs in India, ending the series with an average of 49 and an economy rate of 7.34, comfortably the worst on either side. He is also now notoriously the most expensive bowler in the history of ODIs. He made more of an impact in the T20s in New Zealand however, taking six wickets in three matches. A desire to play Tremlett back into fitness, Meaker's superior pace and Lewis's batting may ultimately squeeze Dernbach out of the Surrey Championship side initially.
Have I mentioned that Lewis had a tricky second half of 2012? Sometimes it feels like I never write anything else about the bloke. He took only eight wickets in the final eight games of last season, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how much of a handful he was in his first five games, grabbing 23 wickets at less than 20 apiece. He adds a fair amount of steel to the lower order and if we elect to field five bowlers Lewis may find himself a place in the XI. Needs to sort out the no-ball issue, while the wickets dried up the free runs didn’t – he gave away precisely 100 runs simply by over-stepping in 2012. He reiterated his batting ability with a better than a run-a-ball fifty against Gloucestershire Second XI today.
Just the one lacklustre appearance in 2012 for the injury plagued seamer did not bode well for the remainder of his career but the winter has given him a chance to regroup and recover. England still have designs on him for the Ashes as Steve Finn has yet to definitively nail down a place in the starting XI but he’ll have to prove his fitness first. There is no doubt that on form and fully fit, Tremlett is one of the best bowlers in the country. As part of a five man attack he can be devastating, but if we only field four bowlers his workload might be deemed too high. Strangely he didn’t play in the pre-season fixture against Kent and I’m not sure he bowled a heap of overs against Hampshire (though he did collect the wicket of Jimmy Adams). He’ll need to bowl plenty of overs for the Second XI this week if he is to have a hope of making the first fixture; playing later in the month or into May could be more realistic.
Seven matches, and only three in the first 11 fixtures, seems like scant reward for the man who took 73 wickets in 2011. It seems like scant reward because it is. And when Linley did get on the park last season he didn’t disgrace himself with 16 wickets at 29 each, including a five-for against a powerful Nottinghamshire attack. He will probably have to be satisfied with another bit-part in 2013 as the more fashionable Meaker, Dernbach and Tremlett and the more expert batsman, Lewis, sneak ahead of him in the pecking order. He was the most economical seamer in the attack in the game against Kent last week, picking up two wickets in the process, which will give Adams food for thought.
Edwards was the Matt Dunn of 2012. He played just the two games, against Worcestershire and Somerset, but took five wickets including an explosive 4-44 against the former. He was expensive, leaking 4.1 runs per over but he is a genuine quick, and tall to boot. He is yet to pass his 21st birthday so occasional rather than relentless first team cricket is no bad thing.
Having burst into the first XI in 2011 as Jade Dernbach’s replacement against Derbyshire (he took 5-56 in a victory), Dunn was infuriatingly under-bowled in the subsequent fixture against Gloucestershire and he’s only featured for the first team once since. Injury got in the way in 2012, as did Edwards’ explosive debut, but if he can get himself fit this year, a backup seam attack of Edwards, Linley and Dunn himself is very handy indeed.
Much like fellow winter recruit Vikram Solanki, 2012 was hardly vintage Keedy but also like Solanki, there’s probably some life in the old dog yet. In his defence his chances were only limited in Championship cricket last season because of Lancashire’s admirable policy of blooding their younger spinners, rather than Keedy being poor. He is one of County Cricket’s quiet achievers, our attack has been crying out for a Keedy or a Dean Cosker for many a year so we should count our blessings. Quite how he fits into the side is another matter, but don’t be surprised to see Adams plump for two spinners at the Oval regularly. Keedy wasn’t signed to sit on the sidelines and when his capture was announced last year Adams said “very few counties are as committed to a two spinner policy as Surrey”.
Freddie van den Bergh
The Surrey man of whom we have seen the least in recent years, mainly because he is still at University and has only appeared for Surrey against the MCCU sides. However he comes highly regarded and with Batty and Keedy on the books at Surrey as well, he has two very able masters to learn from. If he plays any role in the first team at all it is only likely to be on wearing pitches at the very end of the season. One for the future certainly.
Surrey’s hero of 2012, Batty’s reputation was so enhanced that by the end of the season Surrey were referred to in some quarters simply as “Team GB”. His bowling figures were helped by some very spin friendly Oval pitches, but it’s worth noting that his wickets came cheaper than his spinning colleague Murali Kartik’s on those pitches. The ball might be turning but wickets don’t just take themselves. His batting was poor though, including 13 single figure scores and no score higher than 36. His batting is not that of a reliable number seven. He can expect some more dry Oval wickets this year and his grit and determination ought to fit in nicely with Messrs Smith and Ponting.
21 year old allrounder Jewell has been knocking around the Surrey squad for a good few years. It may have surprised some when his contract was extended at the end of 2012, perhaps largely thanks to his score of 70 in the game against Lancashire, but Jewell has earned his chance. He’s only played three Championship matches for Surrey, but he’s never been involved in a defeat. His bowling is unlikely to terrify many Division One top order batsmen but as a fifth bowler it would be more than adequate. It would be a crime to see Jewell stew in the Second XI while some of his colleagues in the autumn of their careers are persisted with.
It feels like an age since Ansari made his full Surrey debut in late 2010, so much so that he already feels like a fixture despite having never yet actually played a full season for the club. He is no less exciting a player for the passage of time and I still can’t wait for him to be a permanent member of the squad. His thirteen innings opening the batting last season brought only one score of 50 or more (that 257 ball epic at Edgbaston), and an average below 20. Hopefully 2013 will see him allowed to develop in the middle order, though he certainly has the talent and attitude to return to the top of the order at some point in his career. He is something of a Jekyll and Hyde as a batsman, his obduracy in Championship cricket makes way for a prodigious six hitting ability in limited overs cricket. His tricky left arm spin also tends to be more effective in the shorter formats.