The 2022 season gets under way with the winds of change having blown their way through the corridors of the Oval this winter, following head coach Vikram Solanki’s departure to the lure of the IPL, and the hiring of the ECB’s Steve Elworthy to replace outgoing Chief Executive Richard Gould. With numerous senior squad members in various stages of transition in their respective international careers, the way the squad gels under the stewardship of new coaches Gareth Batty and Azhar Mahmood will likely define how the summer transpires down at SE11.
With much change afoot then, Director of Cricket Alec Stewart has been quick to recognise the value of continuity in appointing the just-retired Batty to the position of Interim Head Coach, with Mahmood’s years of experience at The Oval, and undoubted breadth of skills certain to be of substantial benefit to Surrey’s bowlers in particular.
Yet it is upon the batting line-up that many a county member gaze will linger. The bruising Ashes experience of both Rory Burns and Ollie Pope might yet come to the county’s benefit however, as both look to prove technique and temperament alike in a push for further England recognition. Burns certainly seems set to enjoy the benefits of a period of focus upon his duties as Surrey captain, gaining from his pre-existing relationship with the newly appointed coaching staff.
The county red ball form will certainly need to improve upon the relative disappointments of last season, with a substantial onus placed upon Burns, and the re-signed Hashim Amla to make heavy run scoring contributions in the likely absence of both Pope and Ben Foakes to the England Test squad. Jamie Smith’s progress will be monitored by plenty further afield than The Oval this season, and the club will look to the likes of Will Jacks and Ryan Patel to make more than an occasional impact with bat in hand. The bowling stocks have been further bolstered with the re-signing of Kemar Roach for the first five matches of the County Championship and the impending return of Sam Curran from back injury to join an able seam bowling line-up that includes Jamie Overton, Reece Topley and Jordan Clark. Surrey stalwarts will hope for a continuation of the spin-accommodating nature of the Oval pitches in order for both Amar Virdi and Dan Moriarty to feature prominently in the wickets column.
The white ball teams too will be cause for intrigue, with Chris Jordan returning as both captain and premier bowler of some substantial experience, to be joined for a competition first appearance in the Vitality Blast by the ever-mysterious spin franchisee Sunil Narine. Jason Roy’s eventual return from an indefinite break will no doubt be welcomed with open arms. Will Jacks’ potential pyrotechnics will hopefully make up any deficit. Much also will be expected from Laurie Evans after his recently announced white ball specialism, following an eye-catching contribution in The Big Bash. How both Curran brothers recover from their respective stress fractures may well prove crucial, as Reece Topley’s capacity to deliver left arm pace from an awkward height reaped genuine reward for England in the Caribbean earlier in the winter.
Ins: Sunil Narine (Vitality Blast only), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Cameron Steel (Durham), Dan Worrall (UK passport)
Outs: Vikram Solanki (head coach – Gujarat Titans), Richard Johnson (assistant coach – Middlesex), Tim David (Lancashire), Mark Stoneman (Middlesex), Liam Plunkett (released), Jade Dernbach (released), Rikki Clarke (retired), Gareth Batty (retired)
Key Player: Rory Burns
Much was made of the quirky style of England’s incumbent opener throughout the recent Ashes series, one which saw Burns being dropped and recalled, before failing to gain selection for the subsequent Windies touring party. England’s loss might well be Surrey’s gain though, as few in English cricket doubt Burns’ mental fortitude and determination in the face of adversity. Whispers from within the club are of a doubling down of efforts to streamline his movements, and few will be surprised if the upshot is a return to the level of run scoring that first drew him to international recognition. Regardless, his respect within the club remains undiminished.
Player to Watch: Daniel Moriarty
With no less than four five-wicket hauls from only six first-class matches, the Reigate-born, South Africa-raised slow left armer has already caught the attention of several respected observers in and around the county game. His declaration of ambition to represent England will please many, doubly so as his white ball abilities make for an equally compelling proposition, showcasing his versatility. Often working in tandem with his right arm off-spinning partner Amar Virdy, the pair make a compelling case for Surrey being in possession of the most potent spin bowling combination in county cricket.
Overseas Signings: Hashim Amla, Kemar Roach (First five LV= Insurance County Championship matches), Sunil Narine (Vitality Blast)
Whilst Roach and Narine represent undeniably attractive headline propositions, the temperament, consistency and calming influence of Hashim Amla, as he ambles to the crease at the loss of the first wicket, is most likely to be the most valuable contribution from Surrey’s array of overseas signings.
How they’ll fare:
The combination of much off-field change and the vagaries of national selection may well stretch Surrey’s capacity to maintain a concerted red ball effort in a competitive looking County Championship first division, under what remains at this stage only an interim coaching structure. The club’s capacity to unleash its junior and lesser-established talent may yet prove the defining element in their red ball campaign. The white ball set-up looks a more likely bet, with any number of players capable of providing the defining contribution, ably supported by a noisy and raucous post-work Oval crowd. Targeting silverware in both white ball competitions, expect fireworks with bat, and with ball.
Opening Fixture: Warwickshire v Surrey, LV= Insurance County Championship, 7-10 April, Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.
Season Odds (Sky Bet):
LV= County Championship : 8/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 14/1
Vitality Blast: 10/1