After a two year absence, Division One cricket returns to The KIA Oval on Sunday as newly promoted Surrey host Somerset. Both of these sides will be looking to prove themselves after a poor first outing.
It was a less than ideal start for the South London county in their opening fixture, succumbing to defeat at the hands of Nottinghamshire, Ravi Rampaul’s opening day 5-93 and Arun Harinath’s second-innings 137 not enough to salvage a result.
The final day run defence brought about questions over some of Gareth Batty’s decisions as he chose not to utilise himself or Sam Curran in the 43 overs bowled, instead persisting with Rampaul, Tom Curran and Mark Footitt.
A visit from Somerset gives Batty’s men a chance to put those woes behind them. A week away between games allowed time to reflect, and with home advantage, Surrey will want to set things right and put their season on track.
The weather put an abrupt end to Somerset’s trip to Durham in the first round of matches, but two centuries from the hosts’ opener Keaton Jennings left the visitors in a very difficult position, so much so that the rain almost certainly saved the West Country side from a heavy defeat.
A third consecutive sixth place finish in last season’s Championship would have been disappointing for Somerset, but there is some real talent on show this year. Led by new captain Chris Rogers and with the likes of young opener Tom Abell promising much, it’s difficult to see the side not achieving more.
It has been 21 years since Somerset’s last Championship victory at The Oval, with three Surrey victories and four draws in the seven matches the ground has played host to since. With the weather set to play a part, these sides could be in for another stalemate.
Seven wickets at Trent Bridge suggested that Tom Curran has very quickly adapted to his first season playing Division One cricket. Tipped as soon to be in line for England, Curran took his 100th First Class wicket in the opening match and if he can repeat the form that enabled him to take 76 wickets last season, Somerset’s batsmen will have a real test on their hands.
Highly touted by former captain Marcus Trescothick, fellow opener Tom Abell notched up 726 runs in 13 matches last season. The 22-year-old is a very capable player, and comes to London off the back of a century against Cardiff MCCU last week. With a spot alongside Alastair Cook still up for grabs, Abell will be looking to keep himself very much on the selectors’ radar with a big score this week.
Zafar Ansari returns to the Surrey side after his long recovery from the thumb injury sustained towards the end of last season that kept him out of England’s tour to the UAE. Also included is new signing Mathew Pillans, who features for the first time and replaces Sam Curran as he returns to school. Ben Foakes will likely retain the gloves in a side full of wicketkeepers.
Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Zafar Ansari, Rory Burns, Tom Curran, Steven Davies, Matthew Dunn, Mark Footitt, Arun Harinath, Mathew Pillans, Ravi Rampaul, Jason Roy, Kumar Sangakkara, Gary Wilson
Two changes for Somerset from their squad against Durham as the Overton twins, Craig and Jamie, return in place of Josh Davey and Ben Green. For Jamie, it’s a return to the ground where he made his first-class debut almost four years ago and he’ll be hoping to make it a memorable visit.
Somerset squad: Chris Rogers (c), Ryan Davies (wk), Tom Abell, Jim Allenby, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Peter Trego, Marcus Trescothick, Roelof van der Merwe
Weather and conditions
The weather may not be too kind to these sides, with dark clouds set to become showers across the final two days and temperatures only just reaching double figures.
Date: 24th-27th April 2016
Ground: The KIA Oval
Umpires: Paul Baldwin & Richard Illingworth
Odds (SkyBet): Surrey 8/11, Somerset 11/10