To The Oval – And Beyond?

Somerset head to The Oval tomorrow knowing what is required to seal a place in the Division One title showdown. But as we have all come to learn it probably isn't going to be straightforward.

Surrey v Somerset, County Championship Group 2, The Oval, July 11th to 14th 2021

After a disappointng trip to Southampton in the Blast last evening we switch back to the Championship tomorrow and the quest for five bonus points to secure a place in Division One. As I write this, there are so many uncertainties that it is almost impossible to preview the game so instead here are, in no particular order, some thoughts on my hopes for the next four days. Feel free to let me know which are your priorities or add any others

Primary has to be that the batsmen deliver. A substantial first innings total will be enough to secure the necessary bonus points. Runs for Hildy, Bartlett and Lammonby as part of that would do nicely as well.

Tom Abell is back to captain and bat at 3 even if he can’t bowl.

Josh Davey only plays if the coaches are highly confident he will be able to bowl in both innings. If not he can’t be risked especially if Abell’s hamstring prevents him turning his arm over.

Jack Leach is available – we’ll take your Ravi Ashwin and raise The Nut.

Hashim Amla is exhausted. Even the super-fit South African legend must be feeling a little drained physically and emotionally

Jack Brooks produces another rolling-back-the-years performance but with a tad more luck. If he does I see a five-fer. 

Jamie Overton is rested. I still can’t cope emotionally with seeing him in Surrey colours let alone playing against us. If he does play a reprise of his disappointment from the Blast game two weeks ago would be nice. 

A dejected Jamie Overton after his dismissal in The Blast fixture at The Oval last month – Photo Sir Peter Wanless

Credit where credit is due however. In a week where the credibility of the Championship was once again questioned by many Surrey produced a performance at Southampton on Wednesday of gargantuan proportions to frustrate Hampshire. It would have been all too easy to roll over from 30-4 before lunch and get back home to watch the football but they battled through a riveting day which proved you don’t need rappers and cheerleaders to produce fantastic cricket.

Hampshire supporters must already be contemplating the final days of three of their home games this season and wondering what might have been. They were denied wins by both Surrey and Gloucestershire on the last evening but failed themselves to hold out for a draw against Somerset. Turn the draws into wins and the loss into a draw and Group 2 would look very different.

But they didn’t and it doesn’t so we go into the last round of the group with it looking like a showdown at Cheltenham to see who joins Somerset in the top division. Let’s hope that Somerset bag the points they need nice and early and we can all relax and enjoy the contest at The College Ground. I for many reasons would much prefer to see Hampshire prevail.