It was billed as Virat Kohli’s Specsavers County Championship debut, but the Indian captain’s absence shouldn’t remove the gloss from this fixture.
Surrey travel to Southampton after a disappointing Royal London One-Day Cup campaign that saw them exit in the group stage for the first time since 2014.
But their red-ball form is much better, joining Somerset as one of only two sides yet to taste defeat in Division One. With a blend of Academy graduates and experience, they are emerging as real title contenders.
Hampshire ended the first block of the Championship season with just a solitary win, in the opening week against Worcestershire, and find themselves in seventh.
Qualification as South Group winners in the One-Day Cup will provide a major boost and, buoyed by the presence of Dale Steyn as well as the return from injury of Liam Dawson and Kyle Abbott, they will be expecting to go toe-to-toe with Surrey.
History favours the visitors. Hampshire’s last victory over Surrey came ten years ago, while they have never beaten Surrey on this ground in red-ball cricket.
Their last home win came at the County Ground in 1994 when Giles White, Hampshire’s current Director of Cricket, was making only his sixth first-class appearance for the club.
Liam Dawson returned from a finger injury against Somerset on Wednesday and hit a 47-ball 76 in a losing effort. His spot in the middle order has been well-filled of late by Brad Taylor, but Dawson’s return adds a stronger batsman at number six and a very useful option with the ball. He took six wickets at The Oval in April but has taken just five in as many other Championship innings this season, and the 28-year-old will be eager to remind everyone how dangerous a player he is.
At just 20, Ollie Pope has quickly become the talk of the county circuit after a very impressive 12 months. After a century in only his second Championship match, he has hit another two in seven appearances since, and looks a very good prospect. He has a good record against Hampshire so far too, with his maiden hundred coming at The Ageas Bowl last September before he notched up 145 against them earlier this season — he averages 97 against them.
Dale Steyn made his Hampshire debut on Wednesday and is set for his first red-ball appearance on the south coast, with Hashim Amla’s knee injury now extending Steyn’s stint until the end of the month. Wicketkeeper Lewis McManus prepared for this game with 45 for the 2nd XI against Surrey’s 2nd XI on Friday, while Kyle Abbott is expected to return from an ankle injury.
Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Kyle Abbott, Jimmy Adams, Gareth Berg, Mason Crane, Liam Dawson, Fidel Edwards, Sean Ervine, Ian Holland, Lewis McManus, Rilee Rossouw, Ryan Stevenson, Dale Steyn, Joe Weatherley
Morne Morkel is in line for his first-class debut for Surrey after appearing in the Royal London One-Day Cup. Matt Dunn has recovered from a fractured rib while Arun Harinath and Mat Pillans are also included in the squad and could make their first Championship appearance of the season. Jason Roy and Tom Curran are away with England’s ODI team.
Surrey squad: Rory Burns (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Scott Borthwick, Rikki Clarke, Sam Curran, Jade Dernbach, Matt Dunn, Arun Harinath, Morne Morkel, Ryan Patel, Mat Pillans, Ollie Pope, Mark Stoneman, Amar Virdi
Weather and Conditions
It’s set to be a dry weekend with sunny spells and patchy cloud throughout. Highs of 24 °C are expected on Sunday.
Date: 9th-12th June 2018
Ground: The Ageas Bowl
Odds (SkyBet): Hampshire 11/10, Surrey 8/11