Surrey’s ambitions are second-to-none in this season’s Specsavers County Championship. Between the signing of Virat Kohli for June and Rory Burns leading from the front with a dogged 193 against Worcestershire, the South Londoners look a formidable force.
Last week’s draw against Worcestershire on a wicket offering nothing for bowlers looks a mere blip and, should there be more for the bowlers this weekend, Yorkshire will have a test on their hands.
It’s not quite the Test Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow will be having later this month, although it is one they probably need.
A second innings 50 and 35 for Bairstow and Root, respectively, helped ease the disappointment of first innings 7 and 0 for the pair on their Championship return against Essex.
It’s encouraging for the county game, particularly in the age of ‘The Hundred’, that Surrey have utilised a number of young talents this season — Amar Virdi and Ollie Pope have both put in eye-catching performances.
But Yorkshire have emerging talent of their own in the form of 19-year-old Harry Brook, who scored his maiden first-class century at Chelmsford, setting the platform for a remarkable Yorkshire victory.
This fixture will provide a stern challenge for them all, and it is in team sport’s heavyweight clashes where the up-and-coming often prove themselves most substantially.
This match provides Jonny Bairstow the perfect opportunity to see his potential successor in action. Ben Foakes had a superb 2017, capped off with a spot in England’s Ashes squad. Already boasting three half-centuries this season, the man described by Surrey’s director of cricket, Alec Stewart, as “the best wicket-keeper in the world” has an abundance of hype to live up to. While there is absolutely no doubt over Bairstow’s Test spot, some healthy competition is always useful, and Foakes could do worse than dominate this match.
Bairstow was one of few to emerge from the winter with their head held somewhat high with a century in Perth and a trio of hundreds in ODIs and Tests in New Zealand. He’ll be determined to keep up that good form both to aid Yorkshire’s title charge and to prepare for the Test series against Pakistan on May 24th — and Bairstow will be in an even better mood after his autobiography, ‘A Clear Blue Sky’, was nominated for Autobiography of the Year in the Waterstones Sports Book Awards on Thursday.
Dean Elgar missed last week’s match due to pre-arranged commitments in South Africa but returns for the Yorkshire clash, while Matt Dunn remains unavailable having suffered a fractured rib.
Surrey squad: Rory Burns (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Rikki Clarke, Sam Curran, Jade Dernbach, Dean Elgar, Conor McKerr, Stuart Meaker, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Mark Stoneman, Amar Virdi
Ben Coad has 23 wickets in three matches this season but is rested with a sore ankle, replaced by James Wainman, the left-arm seamer, while Steven Patterson is included despite still having a broken finger. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow will play their final Championship match before England face Pakistan later this month.
Yorkshire squad: Gary Ballance (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Tim Bresnan, Harry Brook, Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Cheteshwar Pujara, Joe Root, Josh Shaw, James Wainman,
Weather and conditions
Last week’s wicket suggested a return to the docile, batsmen-friendly pitches of last season that produced four draws out from six matches. In cooler, cloudier conditions this weekend, there may be opportunity for more swing.
Date: 11th-14th May 2018
Ground: The KIA Oval
Odds (SkyBet): Surrey 1/1, Yorkshire 4/5