Surrey and Durham will both be bidding for maiden Specsavers County Championship victories when the two face off at the Kia Oval starting on Sunday.
Weather and snow, yes snow in April, has plagued both sides of early season victories, with the two in control in their respective matches against Somerset before falling foul of the weather to come away with just draws.
With that in mind, the importance of an early season win can be Never Knowingly Undersold, especially for Durham head coach Jon Lewis (excuse the pun).
In fact Division One has seen just two games reaching a winning finish, with Surrey the victim of one those to sit bottom in the early stages.
The signs are there, however, that they’ll climb a few places by the time September ends. Inevitable runs from Kumar Sangakkara, as well as wickets from Ravi Rampaul had led to a promising encounter against Nottinghamshire, only for the Trent Bridge outfit to spoil the return to take the spoils.
As mentioned, Durham’s early season has been spoiled by conditions. With just three completed innings in their two games, the campaign has barely got going at Emirates Riverside. Players such as Mark Stoneman and Jack Burnham, 141* and 61 respectively against Middlesex, have found an incline of form though, with plenty of runs expected once again in south London.
Durham will have the option to bowl, but with runs supposedly free-flowing it may not be the easiest of decisions, despite boasting Chris Rushworth, Graham Onions and Ben Stokes in their attack.
Aside from Sangakkara against his former county, Ravi Rampaul has built up an assumed danger tag after a positive start to the season. The West Indian bowler was perhaps not first choice to be among the wickets given the strength in depth Surrey boast, but Rampaul already has two five-wicket hauls to his name this season, just his eighth and ninth in first-class cricket.
It seems Paul Collingwood has been around forever, and the 39-year-old is just 49 runs away from reaching 15,000 in first-class cricket. But less than 300 of those have come against Surrey, a team the former England man averages 19 against. He’ll look to cash in on what is expected to be another flat and batting-friendly track at the Kia Oval.
Mark Footitt is out with a thigh strain, forced to undergo an MRI scan following an injury he picked up last time out. He’s expected to be replaced by Mark Dunn in Surrey’s only change.
Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (captain), Zafar Ansari, Rory Burns, Tom Curran, Steven Davies, Matthew Dunn, Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper), Arun Harinath, Mathew Pillans, Ravi Rampaul, Jason Roy, Kumar Sangakkara, Gary Wilson
Durham are set to name an unchanged XI, with Ben Stokes still available following his release from England.
Durham predicted XI: Paul Collingwood (captain), Scott Borthwick, Jack Burnham, Brydon Carse, Keaton Jennings, Graham Onions, Ryan Pringle, Michael Richardson (wicketkeeper), Chris Rushworth, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman
Weather and Conditions: Sunshine for the first day, and hopefully the rest of the week, although a small shower is expected for Day Two,
Date: 1-4 May 2016
Ground: The Kia Oval, London
Umpires: Steve O’Shaughnessy & Billy Taylor
Odds (via SkyBet): Surrey 8/11, Durham 11/10