After getting off to a near-perfect start with a nine wicket win against Hampshire on Monday, Surrey will look to maintain that good start as Durham visit the Oval tomorrow evening.
With the announcement today that Graeme Smith is returning to South Africa to nurse his injured ankle, a slightly different-looking 14 man squad has been named:
Zander De Bruyn
Bench: Tom Jewell, Tom Curran, Tim Linley
Gareth Batty will captain the side in Smith's absence. His appointment in the interim is the sensible choice. He has the respect of the players and the supporters and he has the nous to succeed. He's constantly in the ear of the opposition and sets the tone on the pitch even when he's not leading the side. Rory Burns replaces Smith as a batsman and given the form he's been in early season hopefully we won't miss the runs too much, although even in light of his exceptional talent I can't see Burns playing the innings Smith did against Hampshire.
I would expect Jason Roy to be moved up to open the innings, though Vikram Solanki could also do a fine job in partnership with Davies. I still think there would be value in bringing in one of the allrounders, Jewell or Curran, to the middle order but I sense that is an unlikely change. The bowling attack will likely be the same, although Keedy bowled poorly there are no other spinning options in the side. Jade Dernbach may be rested with the four day game starting on Friday, in which case Linley would likely come in.
Last year's games between the two sides produced two pretty one-sided games. Durham easily winning the game at Chester-le-Street thanks to a virtuoso 143 from Phil Mustard, and Surrey coming out on top at the Oval, stifling the Durham batsmen with spin. So far this season Durham have recorded a comfortable win over Lancashire at Old Trafford and lost a tight encounter at home to Essex. As ever they carry a significant threat with the bat - Mustard, Collingwood and Stokes are the key men. Given the likely nature of the pitch I would expect Breese and Borthwick to be danger men with the ball. Fortunately Graham Onions is missing with the England Lions.
Minus Graeme Smith, Surrey are probably very evenly matched with Durham. Monday's game delivered a superb performance with the bat and in the field, but there was room for improvement in the bowling. Given the loss of the captain we will have to up our game across the board, and if we do we'll be well on our way to two wins out of two.
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