The fourth round of the LV= Insurance County Championship sees Gloucestershire host table-topping Surrey, keen to emphasize the positives from their last gasp defeat at the hands of an impressively strong Lancashire side last weekend.
New Gloucestershire head coach Dale Benkenstein will no doubt be cheered by his team’s run scoring thus far. The form encompasses not just the hundreds racked up by James Bracey, Ryan Higgins and Marcus Harris, but also the obdurate rear-guard defence that came within four overs of a highly credible draw against an international class attack at Emirates Old Trafford.
Commitment to the cause aside, the lack of bowling penetration will be a concern though; whilst Zafar Gohar contributed four wickets against Lancashire, the rest of the attack could manage just two more between them. Still to bowl the opposition out twice, the injury-related absence of youthful paceman Naseem Shah has been acutely felt. Little wonder then that Gloucs have been quick to swoop for his countryman Mohammad Amir on a short-term contract. Though without a red-ball match since 2019, Amir remains a proven performer in all conditions, and may well prove to be an astute signing.
Surrey’s performances to date have been all the more impressive for being a bowler shy in both of their recent victories, Kemar Roach having pulled up with a hamstring problem, and James Taylor succumbing to back spasms. Australian seamer Dan Worrall, returning to Bristol after a stint with the home side last season, is most likely to join a well-honed seam attack of Jamie Overton, Jordan Clark and Reece Topley. The trio have combined for an impressive 33 wickets so far, and with Sam Curran stepping up his bowling contribution allied to the handy off-spin of Will Jacks at number seven, Surrey feature an enviable array of all-round talent.
Yet it was opening bat Ryan Patel who grasped the headlines last week, making his highest first-class score to date in the run chase against Somerset. It is just the latest peak in an ongoing ascent since a confidence inducing one day blitz against Nottinghamshire last season. Fellow opener and club skipper Rory Burns will be keen to make a meaningful top order contribution himself though, as Surrey look to maintain the early season pacesetting.
Gloucestershire player: Ryan Higgins
A bright start to the season saw all-rounder Higgins combine 167 runs with seven wickets of medium pace against Northants, before a quieter couple of rounds culminated in a first ball duck at the hands of Matt Parkinson last time out. A consistent red ball performer in recent years, Gloucestershire will look to him to make a telling contribution against Surrey.
Surrey player: Jamie Overton
Overton credits Surrey bowling coach Azhar Mahmood with the benefits of shortening his run up, and the subsequent impact it has had on his penetration so far in 2022. Eleven wickets at 20.81 represents a genuine turning point since his departure from Somerset, applying a brand of pace and aggression that might well derive dividends in Bristol.
Gloucestershire: Having arrived in the UK last week, many will be keen to observe the return to first class cricket of left arm pace threat Mohammad Amir. Gloucestershire will be hoping he will become the latest Pakistani player to make a memorable contribution to this season’s championship.
Gloucestershire squad (probable): Mohammad Amir, James Bracey (wk), Graeme van Buuren (cap), Ben Charlesworth, Ajeet Dale, Chris Dent, Zafar Gohar, Miles Hammond, Marcus Harris, Ryan Higgins, Tom Lace, Matt Taylor, Josh Shaw, Jared Warner
Surrey: There seems little cause to change a winning team, though expect Worrall to come in for a first game of the season in place of the recovering Taylor. Also, they have signed Colin de Grandhomme as a replacement for Kemar Roach and he comes straight into the squad.
Surrey squad (probable): Rory Burns (cap), Hashim Amla, Jordan Clark, Ben Foakes (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Will Jacks, Jamie Overton, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Jamie Smith, Cameron Steel, Reece Topley, Dan Worrall
Weather and conditions:
The forecast looks dry for all four days, with some promise of the occasional breakthrough of sun. A few layers might be pertinent for warmth though.
Date: 28th April – 1st May
Ground: Bristol County Ground
Odds (Sky Bet): Gloucestershire, Surrey <not yet published>