When the county season is completed in three months’ time, this encounter between Surrey and Somerset could be the one seen to define it.
Somerset are top of Division One with Surrey a point behind — both sides have a game in hand over closest challengers Essex — and if either side has their sights set on lifting the trophy, this game is a must win.
The reassuring factor for the visitors to Woodbridge Road is that Surrey haven’t tasted first-class victory at their primary outground since 2002; they’ve won three matches from nine at Whitgift School, their most recent former outground, in that time.
But it was 2002 that Surrey last claimed a Championship title, and defeating Somerset would boost confidence of silverware returning to south London.
Somerset’s last trip to Guildford saw Justin Langer break the club record for the highest score in a first-class match, racking up 342 in a game that saw 1405 runs scored for the loss of just 18 wickets.
It’s helpful for Surrey, then, that captain Rory Burns believes the way his bowling attack are performing is the best in the country, while Somerset are boosted by the return of Jack Leach and Tim Groenewald.
On a picture-esque ground, to the victor goes the spoils — and perhaps allows them to place one hand on the Specsavers County Championship trophy.
At The Ageas Bowl last week, Morne Morkel showed that while he may now be retired from international cricket, he’s still bowling to international standard. He was accurate and quick, occasionally terrorising the Hampshire batsmen with well-directed short balls. He claimed five for 70 on his first-class debut for the club and if any Surrey bowler can extract life from a batter-friendly wicket, he will be the one to do it.
A three-figure score has eluded Tom Abell so far this season, and he’s without a first-class century since his first hundred in September 2015. But he does have two half-centuries this season and helped Somerset to their chase of 248 against Nottinghamshire last week with an unbeaten 46. He’s turned himself into a part-time bowler, too, with seven wickets from five innings. The captain will want to lead from the front with a long overdue hundred.
South African international Theunis de Bruyn will play his first of two games for Surrey, having been signed until the end of June as a replacement for Virat Kohli. Surrey are also without Ben Foakes and Sam Curran, who are with the England Lions, so there could be a position for Mat Pillans — although Curran’s absence makes for a long tail. Ollie Pope is expected to keep wicket.
Surrey squad: Rory Burns (c), Ollie Pope (wk), Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Rikki Clarke, Theunis de Bruyn, Jade Dernbach, Arun Harinath, Will Jacks, Morne Morkel, Ryan Patel, Mat Pillans, Mark Stoneman, Amar Virdi
Somerset welcome back Jack Leach after his thumb injury, as well as Tim Groenewald after a groin injury, but will be without Craig Overton after he was selected for the England Lions.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), Steve Davies (wk), George Bartlett, Dom Bess, Eddie Byrom, Josh Davey, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Jamie Overton, Matt Renshaw, Roelof van der Merwe
Weather and Conditions
It’s set to be a dry, warm week in Guildford with occasional bands of clouds. The wicket will likely be a good one with it typically batter-friendly on a small ground.
Date: 20th-23rd June 2018
Ground: Woodbridge Road, Guildford
Odds (SkyBet): Surrey 8/11, Somerset 11/10