You would be forgiven if, at the start of the season, you had tipped Surrey for silverware. They have a talented and experienced squad with resources that most counties can only dream of – but they footed the South Group in the RLODC, languish at sixth in the County Championship, and are tied for fifth with two other teams in the Vitality Blast.
Kent, on the other hand, are currently leading the pack in the Blast, and arrive at the Oval full of confidence after three wins from three in their matches so far.
There are, admittedly, reasons that Surrey are underperforming this year. England have helped themselves liberally to the aforementioned talent, with three of Surrey’s players forming part of the squad that won the World Cup, and three named in the Test squad to face Australia in the first Ashes encounter at Edgbaston on Thursday.
They can also take confidence from the improvement in their form after substantial defeats to Essex and Middlesex in their first two matches. In their third match of the season, they destroyed Glamorgan to end a seven-match winless run at home to the Welsh side. Most recently, they came away from Hove with a tie against a strong Sussex Sharks side.
Kent, meanwhile, have dispatched Essex, Hampshire, and Somerset en route to the Oval. The competition is still in its early stages, however, and they are only separated from their hosts this evening by three points – a win today would be a strong statement of their intent in this tournament, and they will not be approaching this fixture with any complacency.
While more glamorous players are stealing the headlines, it is Gareth Batty who remains Surrey’s key man at 41. His team may be struggling, but Batty has proved his worth to the cause with eight wickets (joint fourth with fellow old-timer Fidel Edwards) at a measly average of 12.5. Don’t expect to see his name up in lights, but you’re more likely than not to see his name in the wickets column.
Despite a difficult World Cup campaign for his side, Mohammad Nabi is a high-quality all-rounder who has contributed to Kent’s strong opening to the tournament with bat and ball. He took the key wicket of James Vince in the clash against Hampshire, and with plenty of marquee players in the Surrey batting line-up tonight, his services with the ball will be crucial.
Surrey have lost captain Jade Dernbach to a back spasm, and Liam Plunkett has an injured thumb. They are also without Jason Roy, Rory Burns, and Sam Curran, all of whom are on England duty.
Surrey squad: Aaron Finch ©, Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Jordan Clark, Rikki Clarke, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes (wk), Will Jacks, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Mark Stoneman, Imran Tahir, Freddie van den Bergh, Amar Virdi
Kent squad: Daniel Bell-Drummond (c), Alex Blake, Jordan Cox, Zak Crawley, Sean Dickson, Fred Klaasen, Heino Kuhn, Adam Milne, Matt Milnes, Mohammad Nabi, Imran Qayyum, Ollie Robinson (wk), Grant Stewart, Hardus Viljoen