Round six of the LV= Insurance County Championship presents a top versus bottom clash as Kent host Surrey hoping a visit to Beckenham can bring about a change of fortune for the home side, after a winless first four matches.
In fact the writing is already on the wall for Kent’s stand-in skipper Jack Leaning; without a strong finish to the month of May, the club will be staring relegation firmly in the face when the red-ball season resumes later in the season.
Despite this, the season to date hasn’t been without its highlights, not least in the return to form of Daniel Bell-Drummond, and the discovery of Ben Compton as a prolific scorer of runs at the top of the order. With Jordan Cox making regular contributions, it is perhaps also noteworthy that Ollie Robinson battled for north of two hundred balls against Yorkshire last time out, having handed back the captaincy reins and potentially freed his own mind in doing so.
Yet it is with the ball that Kent have struggled. A bowling tally of just four bonus points represents less than half of the next best first division team, as Kent have yet to bowl out their opponents twice since the first game of the season. This has undoubtedly not been helped by Aussie import Jackson Bird having to return home with a serious shoulder injury, with a replacement unlikely in the remaining early season red-ball window.
Whilst young seamer Nathan Gilchrist has led the charge for wickets throughout, the onus surely falls onto attack leader Matt Milnes to hit the same kind of heights as recent seasons. It’s little surprise that Grant Stewart’s loan to Sussex was cut short in order to bring some additional firepower to the seam attack.
Surrey by contrast have delivered a clear game plan throughout, accumulating large first innings totals, before rotating an enviable supply of seamers to unlock the opposition. Whilst Jordan Clark has maintained an impressive wicket-taking consistency, Jamie Overton and Reece Topley have been well rested in order to ensure potency, aided most recently by overseas stars Dan Worrall and Colin De Grandomme.
The run-making has been shared liberally too, with no less than six different centurions so far this season, in addition to Sam Curran averaging 62.5 despite failing to compile that as yet elusive red-ball ton. Surrey’s privileged task then will be to decide which players to rest in their final scheduled match before their focus moves onto the short form game.
Surrey player: Ollie Pope
Having missed out in the last round through illness, and in the face of the impressive form of Yorkshire’s Harry Brooks, Ollie Pope will be doubly keen to press his case for a recall to England’s Test side with runs in Beckenham.
Kent player: Darren Stevens
So often at the epicentre of all positives for Kent in recent seasons, it is no coincidence that the club’s difficult start has overlapped with Darren Stevens’ relative absence in the wickets column. A rapid fire ton against the touring Sri Lanka Development XI plus a change of home venue might be just the thing needed to help kickstart a resumption of normal service.
Surrey: Gus Atkinson’s three second innings wickets against Northants leave Surrey with more in-form players than they can accommodate. Selection may well come down to who has best managed early season niggles.
Surrey squad: Rory Burns (cap), Hashim Amla, Gus Atkinson, Jordan Clark, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Will Jacks, Jamie Overton, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Reece Topley, Dan Worrall
Kent: With the batting line-up faring relatively well and accommodating the recently returned captain, Kent must decide how to find space for Joe Denly after his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Kent squad: Jack Leaning (cap), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Ben Compton, Jordan Cox, Zac Crawley, Joe Denly, Nathan Gilchrist, George Linde, Matt Milnes, Tawanda Muyeye, Hamid Qadri, Matt Quinn, Ollie Robinson (wk), Darren Stevens, Grant Stewart
Weather and conditions: Yet more dry and bright conditions are forecast throughout all four days.
Date: 12th to 15th May 2022
Ground: The County Ground, Beckenham
Odds (Sky Bet): Kent, Surrey – not yet published