If last season’s County Championship was somewhat of a Lord Mayor’s Show, then both Surrey and Warwickshire were the ones left cleaning up the confetti.
The pair head into this season with wounds firmly licked, not due to relegation threats, but with a sense of missing out on fully hitting their potential.
But, with the squads they both possess this season, nothing except a title bid is likely to be acceptable.
That’s true for Surrey, especially. Having raided Durham’s batting unit, they have the enviable task of who to leave out of the top order heading into their Championship opener at the Kia Oval.
Surrey’s campaign was last year thwarted by a wretched opening, showing the late season form that could quite easily have seen them crowned champions, only for no wins in their first seven leaving them looking precariously over the shoulder.
With just eight teams in the division, and two of a mighty-strong bunch feeling the pinch of the drop, a similar start could this be rather more terminal.
For Warwickshire, meanwhile, their campaign never really got going, themselves looking backwards rather precariously ahead to what the promised land could hold. A win on the board away from home early on could do their season absolute wonders.
While it may be an obvious statement, wins will be the key this term, especially with a quarter of the teams saying their farewells from September. A time to bed in may therefore not be on the agenda, with 24 points from week one firmly on the mind.
If any more fuel needing adding to the fire, these two sides also contested last year’s Royal London One-Day Cup final, with the Bears on top at the Lord’s showcase.
This week’s visitors also prevailed in last year’s corresponding fixture, a defiant ten-wicket win at Guildford which Benjamin Franklin would have certainly had something to say about: ‘Death, taxes and a Jeetan Patel ten-fer’ a particular phrase to spring to mind.
Bucket-loads of runs have been scored in the North East by these two, now the key is whether Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick can do it on a warm afternoon in South London.
Having at first been sceptical about a move down south – check out an interview with friends of DEC, All Out Cricket, for more – the two seem to have bedded in, off the pitch at least.
Ironically it was ex-Durham teammate who topped the run-scoring charts last season, but Stoneman’s 1,317 was certainly nothing to be sniffed at, while Borthwick’s handy spin could come into the equation if the Oval track plays ball.
A lot of the Warwickshire success at Guildford last season was down to Jonathan Trott, whose century in the first innings proved vital in the ten-wicket win.
Joining Ian Bell in the middle order for what should be the whole season is set to make the mouth water for the Bears too, though neither made the coveted 1,000 run mark last term – something that will need to change if they are to take top honours.
This week will also see Trott return to a happy hunting ground, the location of his debut century for England, tonning up against Australia to help his side win the 2009 Ashes.
Surrey have named a 13-man squad for this game, with enough batting depth to ensure Jason Roy’s IPL absence is not too hardly felt. Stoneman and Borthwick are both in, as is the evergreen Kumar Sangakkara, while Dominic Sibley could be the unfortunate man to miss out.
Mark Footitt, plagued with injury since his switch from Derbyshire, will feel like a new signing himself.
Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (c), 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
Fifteen Bears have made the trip south, though not Ian Westwood who is unavailable due to a fractured navicular in his left foot, and is expected to return to action in two weeks.
Boyd Rankin continues his rehabilitation from a back problem, suffered during Ireland’s series in India against Afghanistan, and his situation will continue to be monitored weekly as he builds up to full fitness.
Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Liam Banks, Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Alex Mellor, George Panayi, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Sunny Singh, Grant Thornton, Jonathan Trott, Chris Wright