Surrey have sprung something of a surprise in the naming of their 14 strong squad for tomorrow's YB40 game at Derbyshire. Ricky Ponting's long awaited debut had been expected but Azhar Mahmood extending his contract beyond the Twenty20 competition had not been widely acknowledged.
Chris Adams announced the following 14 names, and with it is my best stab at an XI:
Zander de Bruyn
Bench: Tom Jewell, Stuart Meaker, Gary Keedy
Frankly, your guess is as good as mine. The XI above represents something of a departure from Adams' tendency towards spin-heavy sides for limited overs cricket but its hard to see Azhar not playing having made the journey ahead of schedule. Keedy may yet play and if he does one of Lewis or Tremlett, both of whom have bowled very well in the last couple of games, will probably make way.
Its a blow for Tom Jewell who was picked for the Durham game, dropped for the Lancashire game, picked for the Scotland game and now looks set to be dropped again for tomorrow's encounter. All the while he's done very little wrong. It's also likely to seem odd to the onlooker that we're picking a bowling attack comprised largely of players aged 35 and over, while Stuart Meaker - one of county cricket's most explosive young fast bowlers - sits on the bench.
In fact the average age of the team is starkly different to that of one picked around the same time last year. The average age of the side picked to face Durham on the 20th May 2012 was 27, this year you can add six years to that. There can't be many counties picking sides with six players over the age of 35, and only one under 25.
Of course there are two sides to the "Dad's Army" coin. For all the worries about fielding and general stamina you could counter with the eons of experience that will take the field tomorrow, whatever the makeup of the side. Ponting and Azhar are also two proven, top class performers. There's also the small matter that despite being 38, Ricky Ponting is still a mighty fine fielder, snaffling catches like this in the IPL a few weeks ago. However, what you cannot deny is that this is not a side that is going to be dominating county cricket for years to come. In a couple of years, necessarily, the majority of this side will have to be completely different.
Derbyshire have played three, won one, lost one and had a no result against Lancashire in this year's YB40. Given the forecast for tomorrow, we could have another. In their most recent game, against Scotland, they comfortably chased down 182 thanks largely to fifties from Chanderpaul and Chesney Hughes. The batting will rely heavily on those two again (unless Wes Durston has recovered from injury) and the success of the bowling will depend largely on how Mark Turner and David Wainwright perform. As with the Scotland tie, on paper, we are the superior side but come tomorrow evening that will mean little.
It will be fascinating to see what the presence of Ponting does to the batting. Solanki's hundred yesterday bucked his trend of making pretty 40s and getting out, and long may that continue. Davies too has looked in prime form without really kicking on in the last few innings. Hopefully Ponting's arrival will inject a bit more of the steel and responsibility we saw while Smith was in situ.
Should the bad weather stay away we ought to be looking at registering a third win in five YB40 matches. Such is the nature of the competition we already can't really afford another defeat. And with the Championship match starting the very next day it could set us up for a much-needed positive week.