Being tipped as title contenders brings with it a certain degree of pressure, a weight of expectation. If Surrey were feeling any pressure heading into their season opener at home to Warwickshire, it certainly didn’t show, as they demolished their much-fancied opponents inside three days.
Before the season started, skipper Gareth Batty even suggested that Surrey could go through the season unbeaten. That’s a lofty aim, but few who witnessed their performance last week will be scoffing at such an assertion.
A debut century for Mark Stoneman was just what the doctored ordered both for him, and his new county. And a six-wicket haul for Mark Footitt in the first innings is the perfect way for the left-armer to kick off his campaign.
All-in-all, it couldn’t have gone much better for Surrey, and they will head into their meeting with Lancashire on top of the table, and with a spring in their collective step.
Pressure at the top, they say, is nothing compared to pressure at the bottom – which is where many seasoned county cricket observers expect Lancashire to be this season.
Three days in to their clash with Essex at Chelmsford, and the Red Rose were looking like putting something in the pipe of those doubters and asking them to smoke it. An Alex Davies century and a strong first innings bowling performance left Lancashire needing eight wickets to win on the final day.
Their failure to take those wickets, thanks largely to a Dan Lawrence century, has raised the doubts again.
Off the back of missing out on a win that should have been their, a trip to the Oval is a particularly daunting task. They will head to London without lead bowler James Anderson, and Surrey will be firm favourites to make it two wins from two.
After Stoneman’s dominance of the Oval scoreboard, and the subsequent Warwickshire follow-on, it became a rather quiet debut for Scott Borthwick. He made 23 in the first innings, which was tidy but not a patch on the man he made the move south from Durham with. Borthwick will therefore be keen to show the Surrey faithful exactly what he can bring to the table, and will be relishing taking on Lancashire’s Anderson-less attack on The Oval’s batsman-friendly surface.
Many have suggested Lancashire will be light on bowling when Anderson departs for England duty, and this is the first chance to put that theory to the test. In his absence, the pressure is very much on Kyle Jarvis to lead the attack and take the bulk of the wickets. He took five wickets in the match at Chelmsford last week and will need to build on that total if Lancashire are to threaten Surrey.
Surrey are likely to remain unchanged from their victory against Warwickshire. Rory Burns will continue to open alongside Stoneman, while young brothers Tom and Sam
Curran will feature with the ball.
Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (captain), Zafar Ansari, Scott Borthwick, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Jade Dernbach, Ben Foakes (wk), Mark Footitt, Stuart Meaker,
Kumar Sangakkara, Dominic Sibley, Mark Stoneman
Lancashire captain Steven Croft has been ruled out through injury, and the Red Rose have named 23-year-old Liam Livingstone as skipper – just over a year since his
With no Anderson, 20-year-old Saqib Mahmood is set to come in as replacement seamer, while Simon Kerrigan will battle Stephen Parry for the position
Lancashire squad: Liam Livingstone (captain), Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Alex Davies (wk), Haseeb Hameed, Kyle Jarvis, Simon Kerrigan, Saqib Mahmood, Ryan
McLaren, Stephen Parry, Luke Procter, Dane Vilas
Five of the last seven meetings between Surrey and Lancashire have ended in a draw; the two most recent encounters have seen each team claim a victory however.
Surrey are enjoying an 11-match unbeaten streak at home to Lancashire (W6 D5).
Surrey have not tasted defeat at the Oval since September 2014 (v Derbyshire); a run of 15 matches (W7 D8).
Mark Stoneman has posted 366 runs across his four previous County Championship innings at the Oval (average of 91.5); reaching 50 in all of those knocks (three for Durham and one for Surrey).
Weather and conditions
There looks to be plenty of cloud cover on Friday, which will at least keep the seamers interested. The sun breaks out on Saturday before the cloud returns for Easter Sunday. The pitch at The Oval often favours the batsman, but can take spin if the match gets into the final day.
Date: 14th-17th April 2017
Ground: The Kia Oval
Odds (SkyBet): Surrey 8/15, Lancashire 6/4