Chris Adams has named his first Surrey squad of 2013, 13 brave men who will face Marcus Trescothick's Somerset side at the Oval starting tomorrow.
Graeme Smith has recovered from the ankle injury he picked up playing for South Africa and Gareth Batty has recovered from the side strain which kept him out of the Second XI game last week so there are no injury worries whatsoever. The squad and possible XI is as follows:
Zander de Bruyn
12th men: Gary Keedy, Jade Dernbach
There would seem to be three possible variants for the starting XI, with the above being most likely in my opinion. Playing three seamers and de Bruyn means that you can manage Chris Tremlett's bowling up to a point but you still have the insurance of batting well down to number seven. Gary Wilson has more than earned his chance to bat there, though it is very disappointing to see Jason Roy miss out after a very solid pre-season. I can't help thinking we may live to regret prioritising Vikram Solanki's experience over a concerted effort to develop Roy's game a couple of years down the line. Which of Dernbach or Linley plays in the end is anybody's guess, but Linley had the better pre-season, in terms of wickets at least. There is always the chance that Adams will prefer Keedy over Batty as well, though even with a strong top seven that would leave quite a tail.
The second option would be to play a four man attack, as above, but with two spinners. Adams committed to playing two spinners wherever possible, and almost always at the Oval, but such an attack would surely be too much of a gamble with Tremlett's fitness. Of course, they could prefer Dernbach or Linley to Tremlett which may allay that concern.
The final option would be a five man attack enabling both Batty and Keedy to be fielded as well as three seamers. While this is the option most readily able to deal with Somerset's much-vaunted top order, I think the batting would be deemed too thin. I would also have expected Lewis to be named in the squad, to bolster the lower order, if a five man attack was being considered.
The top six is more or less set in stone given the 13 selected, that much we know. I can't be alone in eagerly anticipating Graeme Smith walking out to bat wearing Surrey colours for the first time. I'm also excited to see whether Solanki, de Bruyn and Davies can muster the runs their combined talents warrant.
Somerset have not yet officially named a squad but a top order of Trescothick, Alviro Petersen, Compton, Hildreth, Kieswetter, Buttler and Trego is all but certain. Whatever the make up of the attack, getting that lot out twice isn't going to be easy. There is a question mark over the effectiveness of their bowling attack (indeed some wider question marks about their ship having sailed, here for example), led as it is by the ageing Steve Kirby and Alfonso Thomas. That said, they had little trouble bowling Durham out for 116 last week, albeit in a defeat.
It will be interesting to see what sort of pitch has been prepared. All the indications last season were that a dry pitch will be prepared but unless we select two spinners that could be a risky strategy - Somerset's George Dockrell is a talented twirler.
All the previews, all the quotes and all the press releases are out of the way. All that's left now is to get the 2013 season started. A new look squad under a brand new captain will want to get off to the best possible start.