The early season LV= Insurance County Championship games continue to come thick and fast, this week pitting top of the table Surrey against a Somerset team who will be desperate to bounce back from last week’s agonising one wicket loss to Essex.
Whilst both teams will benefit from an extra day’s rest resulting from a three day finish, the respective fortunes of each club could hardly be more stark. Somerset will want to prevent a losing start from defining the course of their season, whilst Surrey’s opening matches have brought a distinctly tangible waft of confidence across the Oval.
The positives for Somerset are as self evident as their deficiencies thus far, with Craig Overton’s return from England duty a hugely impressive thirteen wicket haul last week, contrasting with a mis-firing top six batting order that has delivered just one half century in four completed innings. A truer Oval pitch is likely to give cause for optimism though, with Tom Lammonby, Matt Renshaw and Steven Davies all having given glimpses of their quality so far and captain Tom Abell no doubt determined to lead from the front. Whilst Peter Siddle is more than capable of making meaningful inroads, it will be fascinating to compare the bowling fortunes of Overton against his brother Jamie in the opposition’s ranks.
Surrey however will be breathing easy at this early stage, having delivered two 400 run first innings batting performances, with Jamie Smith being the only top eight batter yet to make a significant scoring contribution. Watch for him to arrest that trend this week. The bowling too brings cause for celebration, not least for the aforementioned Overton J, who took his first five-for for Surrey against Hampshire, and bowled with a fire and aggression that would surely have caught the attention of England’s selectors if only such persons existed. Ably supported by Jordan Clark, James Taylor and with an increasing emphasis upon Will Jacks’ offies, it seems likely that Surrey will resist the temptation to draft either of the spin twins Amar Virdi or Dan Moriarty into the line-up just yet.
Coming into the clash with such contrasting fortunes, this match presents a mouth-watering proposition. Yet whilst the form points to the home side, Somerset are more than capable of laying down a season-turning marker of their own.
Surrey: Jordan Clark
The early season signs are that Jordan Clark seems to have married his ‘all action’ style to an enhanced consistency. Whilst his wicket taking capacity has never been in doubt, he was frequently the man that skipper Rory Burns turned to in the absence of the injured Kemar Roach against Hampshire last week. A half century against Warwickshire in the season opener showcased not just the ferocity of his stroke-play, but also his capacity to make valuable contributions from number eight.
Somerset: Tom Abell
After two losses and yet to make a significant run scoring contribution, Tom Abell will be determined to channel early season pressure into a decisive batting contribution, in order to drag his team back into contention and match Somerset’s title chasing aspirations.
Surrey must decide who will fill the spot vacated by Roach, who pulled up with a hamstring injury in the first innings against Hampshire and has returned home. Reece Topley, rested last week, would seem a more than capable replacement. The rest of the team looks settled.
Run-scoring will be an obvious focus for Somerset, who may well resist too much early season change at this stage, particularly with Tom Banton still absent with a broken finger. The Oval surface may well enhance the temptation to bring Jack Leach into the fold.
Surrey squad: Rory Burns (c), Hashim Amla, Jordan Clark, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes (wk), Will Jacks, Jamie Overton, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Jamie Smith, Cameron Steel, James Taylor, Reece Topley
Somerset squad: Abell (cap), Kasey Aldridge, Jack Brooks, Steve Davies (wk), Lewis Goldsworthy, Ben Green, Lewis Gregory, James Hildreth, Tom Lammonby, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Matt Renshaw, Peter Siddle.
Weather and conditions:
The forecast implies that the weather is unlikely to have a significant impact in terms of preventing play, being dry with some cloud cover across all four days.
Date: 21st – 24th April 2022
Ground: Kia Oval
Odds (Sky Bet): Surrey: 8/13; Somerset: 6/5