It says a lot about Surrey’s current predicament that, in a side possessing such an array of fast bowlers, the part-time spin of Zafar Ansari leads their County Championship wicket-taking list with five.
As seen in their last outing against Essex – when 17-year-old Dan Lawrence became the third youngest first-class centurion – and the away stalemate with Glamorgan, Surrey’s seamers have been unable to break down opposition batting lineups.
While rain and injuries have contributed, as well as pitches designed without bowlers in mind, to their lack of wickets, the underling issues from last year haven’t been resolved. A match-up against Leicestershire though, who are still waiting for their first win in over two seasons, could be the opportunity they need to kick start their promotion campaign.
In Leicestershire’s case, although having not secured that elusive victory yet, early season progress has been made and improvements both on and off the field would indicate the club is on the mend.
The new Australian contingent consisting of coach Andrew McDonald, captain Mark Cosgrove and bowler Clint McKay have brought a competitive edge that is already infusing others, and their results so far show a side much stronger than in previous years. McKay will need to be at his best when visiting the Kia Oval, backed up by Charlie Shreck and Ben Raine, if they are to leave with the points.
Among the young Surrey group to impress in 2014 was Matt Dunn, a ferocious fast bowler whose 47 first-class wickets got him called up to the England Performance Programme and a spot in the MCC’s early season curtain-raiser against Yorkshire. This season, however, has proved much harder for Dunn, taking just three wickets in the opening two matches. And at a time when Surrey need to be winning games if they are to fulfil their dream of promotion, the bowling has to start contributing.
Despite recording Leicestershire’s best bowling figures since 2012, Clint McKay’s six for 54 heroics weren’t enough to secure victory over Kent. However, while Leicestershire will need to match Surrey’s wealth in runs when they visit the Oval, it will be the mastery of leading paceman McKay that could prove crucial if they are to end their winless run. The Australian is proving popular in his first stint in the County Championship, having picked up 13 wickets already, but he’ll need all his ingenuity when he comes up against inform Steven Davies and the rest of Surrey’s star-studded lineup.
Chris Tremlett comes back into the squad for the injured Jade Dernbach, having missed the start of the season through injury himself. From the pre-match chatter, Tremlett will likely start with Stuart Meaker the likely 12th man, although they may considering resting one of their other seamers ahead of a busy schedule. Dernbach is also expected to be out for up to six weeks after picking up a side strain early on in Surrey’s match against Essex.
Surrey squad: Gareth Batty, Zafar Ansari, Rory Burns, Tom Curran, Steven Davies, Matthew Dunn, Stuart Meaker, Kevin Pietersen, Jason Roy, Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Tremlett, Gary Wilson.
Lewis Hill makes way for the Niall O’Brien, who returns to the squad having missed last week’s draw with Kent due to Ireland commitments in the run-up to their abandoned game against England. Ollie Freckingham is also included in the 12-man squad.
Leicestershire squad: Angus Robson, Matthew Boyce, Ned Eckersley, Mark Cosgrove, Neil Pinner, Niall O’Brien, Ben Raine, Clint McKay, Rob Taylor, Charlie Shreck, Ollie Freckingham
Weather and conditions
Overcast but dry conditions are expected throughout the match, with, if anything, the weather improving as the match develops. The last Kia Oval pitch lulled Essex skipper James Foster into thinking the bright green tinges would do lots early on, yet an opening innings of 340 from Surrey showed there’s not too much danger out there.
Date: 10th-13th May 2015
Ground: Kia Oval, London
Time: 11:00 am
Umpires: Paul Baldwin and Nigel Cowley
Odds (via Skybet): Surrey, 10/27, Leicestershire 11/5