A Division Two fixture in Wales has probably never been so widely anticipated.
While the first round of LV= County Championship matches were being played, Surrey were warming up against a team of Oxford University students at the Parks. Glamorgan, tipped by many as contenders for this season’s wooden spoon, piled on the runs against a hapless Leicestershire attack, only to see their enormous 513-9 almost matched by their hosts’ 435, and a draw was inevitable. But the significance of this encounter goes beyond the context of English domestic cricket’s second tier.
Kevin Pietersen will be playing first-class cricket for the first time since the final Ashes Test at the start of 2014. He represented Surrey in the NatWest T20 Blast competition last, and was pencilled in to play their final couple of Championship fixtures, but the decision was taken that with little chance of achieving promotion, the long-term interests of the club were best served by giving opportunities to younger players.
Pietersen’s Surrey contract expired at the end of the season and he published his autobiography, replete with scathing assessments of the ECB, the English cricketing system, and many of his former teammates. It looked for all the world as if Pietersen would end his days as a globetrotting T20 specialist, until incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves sensationally left the door open for an unlikely return for the controversial batsman.
Pietersen gave up his IPL contract, and will be donating his Surrey salary to charity. He notched up a promising century against the students, but if he is to walk out to ‘Jerusalem’ in an England shirt once more, he will need to start the County Championship season with some of the best performances of his career.
Mark Wallace may have only contributed 18 runs across two innings to Glamorgan’s drawn match at Grace Road, but in doing so he passed the milestone of 10,000 first-class runs for the county. It underlines how important he has been to the cash-strapped club over his 16-year career, and he is more vital than ever after they let key all-rounder Jim Allenby depart for Somerset over the winter.
Jade Dernba… just kidding. Rightly or wrongly, this match will be remembered for the performance of Kevin Pietersen. A first-ball duck, and his dreams of an England recall may well be irreparably damaged. A blazing double-century could just about see him on his way towards earning a precious England call-up in time for the Ashes. His return overshadows many important and exciting things, not least the arrival of Surrey’s glorious overseas signing Kumar Sangakkara, but overshadow them it does.
Chris Tremlett is unavailable for Surrey due to a minor hamstring injury, which gives an opportunity for either Jade Dernbach or Tom Curran to force their way into this competitive Surrey side. Kumar Sangakkara will make his debut for the county, having been named in the 13-man squad. Gareth Batty will captain the side, while last year’s skipper Gary Wilson is likely to take the wicketkeeping gloves.
The Glamorgan squad is unchanged from the side that drew with Leicestershire, and will be captained by Jacques Rudolph.
Glamorgan squad: Jacques Rudolph (c), William Bragg, Andrew Carter, Christopher Cooke, Dean Cosker, Colin Ingram, James Kettleborough, David Lloyd, Craig Meschede, Will Owen, Graham Wagg, Mark Wallace (wk).
Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (c), Zafar Ansari, Rory Burns, Tom Curran, Steven Davies, Jade Dernbach, Matthew Dunn, Stuart Meaker, Kevin Pietersen, Jason Roy, Kumar Sangakkara, Vikram Solanki, Gary Wilson (wk).
Weather and conditions
Grey skies are expected on day one, but the rest of the match should be sunny, bright, and even reasonably warm at times. Chances of precipitation are low, so expect four full days of cricket.
Date: 19th – 22nd April 2015
Time: 11:00 am
Ground: SWALEC Stadium, Wales
Umpires: Peter Hartley & David Millns
Odds (SkyBet): Glamorgan 2/1, Surrey 2/5