On the back of Surrey's crushing defeat at the hands of Essex in last night's YB40 clash the Guildford cricket festival begins, and its Warwickshire who are the Championship opponents.
Chris Adams has named a 12 man squad shorn of Gareth Batty whose side injury will keep him out for 4-6 weeks. The loss of Batty is a big blow not only because he's been our only useful spinner this season but also because he's so often the heartbeat of the side. Vikram Solanki will captain in his place. I must confess to being slightly disappointed that Ricky Ponting wasn't drafted in as a short term stand in skipper, but he'll doubtless have much to say in the field in any case.
The squad and a likely XI is as follows:
Zander de Bruyn
12th man: Tim Linley
Batty's injury means that Gary Keedy is likely to be pressed into action. Hopefully his early season run of terrible form that has seen him take just two Championship wickets at 120 will now take an upward turn. He bowled well at Chelmsford last night which is a positive indicator. There is a slim chance that Linley could play in place of Keedy but a spin-free attack seems unlikely especially when you consider that we have two potentially fragile seamers in Meaker and Tremlett. Keedy's ability to (hopefully) tie up an end while the seamers are rotated will be handy.
Batty's absence also means that Jon Lewis is likely to play his first Championship fixture of the season. Batting Stuart Meaker at number 8 will probably be deemed too much of a risk so while there's been nothing to suggest Lewis is a more likely wicket taker than Tim Linley, the former's batting prowess gives him the nod. It's unfortunate for Linley who, while he didn't impress at Derbyshire, has done little wrong this season. That seems to be the story of Linley's post-2011 Surrey career.
The batting was solid against Derbyshire with runs for Harinath, Ponting, Wilson and Davies. Zander de Bruyn continues to win selection despite being in poor form with the bat. His medium pace bowling offers a useful respite for the frontline seamers. I can see no other reason to persist with him.
The bowling, Tremlett aside, needs a massive improvement. If we can get more than one bowler at a time firing on all cylinders we're a danger to most sides, but too often this season one bowler has shouldered the wicket-taking burden while the others release the pressure for the opposition at the other end. We also need to get up to speed quicker, a poor 50 overs on day one last week ultimately cost us the chance of a win.
Warwickshire have started the season poorly, winning just one game so far this season. Few would have tipped them as sixth placed candidates after six rounds of matches. Despite their poor form there's no denying they posess real quality in their ranks, particularly among the bowlers. Tomorrow they could field an attack comprising Chris Wright, Boyd Rankin, Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke and the spin of Kiwi Jeetan Patel. That would be a pretty relentless bunch. Their batting is less secure, although they welcome back Ian Westwood after injury their top order have flattered to deceive in 2013. Only ex-Surrey batsman Laurie Evans and Varun Chopra are averaging over 40.
Morale and confidence will be low for Surrey, we're without a four day win this year and even our trusty 40 over form has deserted us. The frustrating thing with Surrey is that we have such a talented squad but we have so sporadically translated that into on-field performances this year. Warwickshire are a tough side to beat at the best of times but with confidence at a low ebb this game will be extra-specially challenging. Now would be a fine time to start turning the undoubted potential in the side into results.