Round five of the LV= Insurance County Championship sees a draw-heavy Northamptonshire side visit south London to take on top-of-the-table Surrey as both teams look to recover from the toils of bowling on flat decks last week.
Northants arrive in confident frame of mind though, having pushed Essex particularly hard last time around, Ben Sanderson moving beyond three hundred first class wickets in the process as skipper Ricardo Vasconcelos enforced the follow on. A determined batting rear-guard and an increasingly docile pitch ensured honours were shared, but there was no doubt as to which team was in the ascendency throughout.
Whilst top order runs have to date come from the bats of Luke Proctor (last week scoring a fifth red ball ton that took him past 5000 first class runs), Will Young and Rob Keogh, lower order contributions from the likes of Gareth Berg and loanee wicketkeeper Lewis McManus have proven almost as valuable. Having made a century for the second XI earlier this week, it will be interesting to see if Ben Curran returns to the side to play against his higher profile brother.
The pressure inevitably focusses upon the bowlers after three consecutive draws though, particularly so, with second innings wickets proving harder to come by. Northants will surely be tempted then to draft in slow left armer Simon Kerrigan on a pitch that might well reward bold selection.
Surrey too will consider making changes to their bowling attack, after putting in some hard yakka in Bristol last week on a pitch that showcased the abilities of no less than two double centurions. Jordan Clark has featured throughout this season, and either he or Reece Topley might be due a rest, paving the way for the return of Jamie Overton after an electric start to his campaign. With Colin de Grandhomme, Sam Curran and Will Jacks all likely to contribute with the ball, Surrey’s batting depth remains the envy of many a county side.
In seeking a third consecutive Oval win, Surrey are presented with an interesting conundrum in regards to their batting order. With both wicketkeepers Jamie Smith and Ben Foakes featuring heavily in the runs so far, it remains to be seen how the duo can be accommodated in the top six this week. Of the current line up, it is Hashim Amla and skipper Rory Burns who will be most keen to match the heavy scoring contributions of the likes of Ryan Patel and Ollie Pope.
Surrey player: Ollie Pope
With a home record of Bradman-esque proportions, it is hard to look beyond the Surrey middle-order mainstay for potential weight of runs, as he looks to further his case for a recall to England’s Test side this summer.
Northamptonshire player: Ricardo Vasconcelos
Perhaps feeling the burden of captaincy, the compact southpaw opener has yet to make the kind of run-scoring contribution he’d have liked at this stage of the season, surrendering to a three ball duck last time out. Still two years out from being eligible to represent England, he will be increasingly determined to increase his own run making productivity, and lead Northants to a first win of the season.
Surrey: Jamie Overton seems likely to return as Surrey rest and rotate their seam bowling attack to manage the early season workload. A bevy of all-rounders vie for lower middle order places.
Surrey squad (probable): Rory Burns (cap), Hashim Amla, Jordan Clark, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Will Jacks, Jamie Overton, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Jamie Smith, Cameron Steel, Reece Topley, Amar Virdi, Dan Worrall
Northamptonshire: Whilst Berg and Sanderson have dominated the first innings wickets column, part time spinners Saif Zaib and Rob Keogh didn’t quite have the penetration to finish off Essex last week. Simon Kerrigan would surely relish the chance to banish some imperfect Oval memories at the scene of his only Test appearance to date.
Northamptonshire squad: Ricardo Vasconcelos (cap), Gareth Berg, Josh Cobb, Ben Curran, Emilio Gay, Matt Kelly, Rob Keogh, Simon Kerrigan, Lewis McManus (wk), Luke Proctor, Ben Sanderson, Tom Taylor, Will Young, Saif Zaib
Weather and conditions:
Warm and dry conditions are due throughout, with sunshine only interrupted by light cloud cover. Long may it last.
Date: 5th to 8th May 2022
Ground: Kia Oval
Odds (Sky Bet): Surrey 1/3, Northants 9/4