If you’re looking to tip a Royal London One-Day Cup winner based purely on paper, you could do worse than take a punt on Somerset and Surrey.
On the face of it, both of these teams are packed with the kind of limited-overs quality that ought to make for potential champions.
Somerset don’t have Marcus Trescothick in this format, but can rely on the all-round skills of captain Jim Allenby, who was their leading runs scorer in the competition last season with 423 runs from his ten innings.
They have also acquired Steven Davies from Surrey, who scored 396 runs in 2016, and Somerset can always turn to the class and experience of James Hildreth and Peter Trego.
In the batting they look well-served and aren’t short of bowling quality either. Lewis Gregory was one of the competition’s leading wicket-takers last season with 17 scalps, and was ably supported by Tim Groenewald (15) and the left-arm spin of Roelof van der Merwe (14).
But if we’re looking purely on paper, there’s no escaping Surrey as RLODC winners. Their squad appears to have it all.
Not content with the top-order batting power brought to them by the legendary Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara, Surrey have poached both Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick – who scored 485 runs between them in last year’s competition – to add to their batting reserves.
They also possess plenty with the ball, with the Curran brothers, Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker and Mark Footitt just a few of the seam bowling options at their disposal.
But Surrey have been rocked this week by the retirement, aged just 25, of Zafar Ansari. The England international has chosen to pursue other interests away from cricket, a decision Surrey fully support, but one which leaves them without a hugely talented all-rounder.
It’s 2011 since Surrey last lifted one-day silverware, when they won the CB40 trophy, and they fell at the final hurdle last season. Defeat to Warwickshire in the final at Lord’s was a disappointing blow to Gareth Batty’s side and they will be keen to go one step further this year.
The Bears also saw off Somerset in the semi-finals. You have to go back another ten years for the last time the Taunton side won a one-day trophy, when they clinched the C&G crown in 2001.
Steve Davies has made the move from Surrey to Somerset this winter and will hope to show his old county what they are missing. The wicketkeeper has bags of experience, with 170 List A games under his belt. He was actually Surrey’s top runs scorer in the competition last season, averaging 39.60 from his 11 innings. Somerset will hope he’s brought that kind of form with him to Taunton.
With all the star names and firepower in the Surrey ranks, it’s easy to overlook Ben Foakes. The 24-year-old is widely regarded as the best out-and-out wicketkeeper in the country but in the RLODC in 2016 he showed his ability with the bat.
Foakes finished with the best average in the Surrey side on their way to the final, scoring 330 runs from his eight innings and also boasting an impressive strike rate of 101.53. He will hope for a similarly stellar campaign this year as he tries to press his case for England honours.
Somerset’s County Championship captain Tom Abell hasn’t been included in the squad after his four innings this season have yielded scores of 1, 0, 1, 0. Max Waller is often a key component of Somerset’s limited-overs side, while Jamie Overton continues to miss out through injury.
Somerset Squad: Jim Allenby (c), Steve Davies (wk), Pete Trego, James Hildreth, Johann Myburgh, Dean Elgar, Adam Hose, Roelof van der Merwe, Lewis Gregory, Craig Overton, Josh Davey, Tim Groenewald, Max Waller
The Surrey squad is largely similar to the one that has started the County Championship season so well. Jade Dernbach is a one-day specialist and is expected to feature, and West Indian Ravi Rampaul is another bowling option. 19-year-old Ollie Pope makes the squad having played just one List A game so far in his career.
Surrey Squad: Gareth Batty (c), Scott Borthwick, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Jade Dernbach, Ben Foakes (wk), Stuart Meaker, Ollie Pope, Ravi Rampaul, Kumar Sangakkara, Dominic Sibley, Mark Stoneman
Weather and Conditions
The weather for Taunton looks largely fine and dry, with a little cloud cover mixed with some sunshine. Last season the pitch at Taunton offered a fair amount of assistance for the spinners, and the Championship opener this season was a low-scoring affair.
Date: 28th April 2017
Ground: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Umpires: Jeff Evans & Alex Wharf
Odds (SkyBet): Somerset 11/10, Surrey 8/11