It seems that Surrey rather enjoyed my time out of the country, winning four Twenty20s and drawing a Championship game with Notts. A creditable draw too, save for a disastrous first innings from the home side. Attention turns back to the T20 tournament again now as we play Essex this evening.
A 13 man squad has been named, and a possible XI is below:
Zander De Bruyn
Bench: Vikram Solanki, Chris Tremlett
Throughout this season and last we seem to have been employing the old "cobble together as many runs as possible and then strangle the opposition" tactic that was so successful in the 2011 CB40 campaign. What is different about this season though is that we have a lot more firepower in our batting lineup, in addition to a fine and varied bowling attack. On paper at least our batsmen should be giving our bowlers a lot more breathing space.
Davies and Roy have been largely effective at the top but thereafter all but Gary Wilson have been something of a disappointment. Ricky Ponting in particular has been unable to replicate his masterful Championship form, instead continuing his IPL T20 form with just 35 runs from 40 balls. Perhaps he's due an explosion of batting prowess, or perhaps his best T20 days are behind him. The lack of runs in the middle order may be down to failing to find the right combination of the "Floating Four", Wilson, Maxwell, Mahmood and Ansari. Take Wilson out of the equation and the remainder have contributed only 168 from 149 balls between them in five games. If the right combination is found then no total will be out of sight. Maxwell, incidentally, will be playing his last game for the club and while he's been a useful contributor, perhaps his departure will create a space for Tom Curran to be blooded in the First XI?
If the batting has misfired, the bowling has been peerless. Dernbach and Mahmood's variations have stifled teams at the top and particularly at the death, while Jon Lewis has been a surprisingly effective addition to this year's attack. Ansari and Batty have been effective in keeping run rates in check and while de Bruyn hasn't, he has collected more wickets than everyone bar the excellent Dernbach. With big boundaries likely at the Oval again the bowlers will be confident of defending most totals north of 140, though it would be nice to have a bit more room for error tonight.
And despite being demolished by Middlesex last week for 74, room for error is what you need against a side like Essex. With Shah, Bopara, ten Doeschate, Rutherford and Foster in their top order runs should not be as hard to come by as they were against our London rivals. Indeed in their very next game Essex chased down 171 with four balls to spare against Sussex. Shaun Tait will lead their bowling attack and after just one wicket in his first three games he has started to find his feet, returning 4-26 against Sussex. If Tymal Mills plays as well it could well be the quickest attack at the Oval this year.
As I'd hoped when the competition started we are proving quite a handful in this format and with five fixtures left to play we are well placed to progress. Two wins against Sussex and a win against Middlesex in recent weeks would be very nicely augmented by victory over Essex tonight.