Surrey head into the new season after a 2022 campaign that saw red-ball success, and white-ball disappointment. Just one loss in 15 matches saw the County Championship title head to The Oval for a 21st time, and for only the third time in the last 20 years. A one-run defeat in a quarter-final in the Blast to Yorkshire meant the side have only reached one Finals Day out of the last eight, and a depleted side exited the One Day Cup at the group stage with just two wins.
The depth of their batting line-up came into full effect in their victorious 2022 campaign, with eleven separate players scored a hundred. Rory Burns, Ryan Patel and Hamish Amla were the only players to feature in every match, but each of the 23 players utilised came into the side and played a part. Amla’s retirement weakens their top-order, but the homecoming of Dom Sibley means the South African great will be missed, but not to the extent first feared.
An area of concern to Surrey this season is the role of spinner. A few eyebrows were raised last season when Will Jacks was entrusted with the role of front-line spinner, but an economy of just over three showed he could offer control when necessary. Jacks was set to miss the start of the season for the IPL, but an injury sustained on England’s tour of Bangladesh means he could be absent from the Surrey side for longer than expected.
This means Surrey’s front-line spinner during Jack’s absent could be either Dan Moriarty or Amar Virdi, who made just one first-class appearance last season each. However, Jacks numbers did not look great last season (17 wickets at 47), showing a high-quality spinner is not essential to a championship-winning team. Jamie Overton’s injury could have alarm bells ringing, but smart business in the pace department for the start of the Championship means there is no need to panic.
2023 marks 20 years of the Blast, which also means it is 20 years since Surrey first, and only, victory in the competition. However, their pace bowling attack of Reece Topley, Chris Jordan, and Sam and Tom Curran, could easily have been utilised in a T20I line-up for England, and Jason Roy looks to be back doing Jason Roy things after a lean 2022. Finally, their trend of being one of the most depleted counties due to The Hundred during the One-Day Cup is set to continue.
Ins: Dom Sibley (Warwickshire)
Rory Burns is one of the biggest losers following Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum’s radical changes to the England Test team. Despite playing 32 tests, scoring three hundreds, and being the first opener to reach 1000 runs for England since Sir Alastair Cook, Burns will also be remembered for that first ball in The 2021/22 Ashes. However, he remains the key component in this Surrey side, ending 2022’s victorious season with three hundreds, and as Surrey’s top run-scorer. His time with England should not deflect from his incredible County Championship career, as he looks to lead Surrey to their third title under his captaincy.
Player to watch:
At another county, the quality of Jamie Smith would find him the first-choice wicketkeeper, no questions asked. However, at Surrey, he finds himself behind in the pecking order to the two ‘keepers who held the gloves for England over the winter. Smith enjoyed a winter with England himself, starring for the Lions as he smashed 126 from 82 balls in a red-ball match against Sri Lanka A. A score of 234 not out against Gloucestershire in the Championship last season announced his name on the Championship scene, as he looks to further add to claims in 2023 that he should be in the conversation for the long-term heir to the England gloves.
Kemar Roach returns for the first six games of the County Championship season, after his successful spells in the 2021 and 2022 seasons for the club. He will most likely line-up alongside Sean Abbott, who joins until the end of July for both the Championship, and the Blast. Abbott’s previous spell with the club in 2021 was cut short due to injury. Dan Worrall’s status as a domestic player means they can utilise last season’s top wicket-taker alongside both Roach and Abbott. Sunil Narine returns with his mystery spin for the second successive year in the Blast.
Best starting XI:
- Rory Burns (c)
- Dom Sibley
- Ryan Patel
- Jamie Smith
- Ollie Pope
- Ben Foakes (wk)
- Will Jacks
- Jamie Overton
- Sean Abbott
- Kemar Roach
- Dan Worrall
How they’ll fare:
The absence of Jacks in the County Championship could have a big impact, more so given the usefulness of his batting having scored 648 runs at 54 last season. Their bowling attack is more experienced than last season, with their two overseas players adding a level of international quality they will be need as they face the challenge of reclaiming their title. Amla will be missed, and Sibley will need to be at his best to offer any sort of replacement. They will be no means struggle, but a second title in as many seasons may not come their way.
Surrey have the quality to reach Finals Day and beyond, but there are clearly more issues faced than the calibre of player. As a result, an appearance at Finals Day is on the cards, but a heart-breaking stumble so close to the finishing line seems to be likely. They look set to once again be depleted during the One-Day Cup, so expect Surrey’s One-Day Cup campaign to include nothing more than some eye-catching performances from relatively unknown youngsters.
Opening fixture: Lancashire vs Surrey, LV= Insurance County Championship Division 1, Old Trafford, Manchester, Thursday 6th April to Sunday 9th April
Season odds from Sky Bet:
County Championship: 11/4
Vitality Blast: 8/1
One-Day Cup: N/A