By Matthew Nichols (@mwgnichols)
Where? The Oval, South London
Ins: Morne Morkel (SA, Kolpak 2-year deal), Will Jacks (YTH), Gus Atkinson (YTH), Mitch Marsh (AUS), Aaron Finch (AUS, T20)
Outs: Kumar Sangakkara (RET), Ravi Rampaul (Derbyshire)
Last Year: Championship: 3rd, RLODC: Runners-up, T20: Q/F
Key Man: Morne Morkel
2018 odds: County Championship: 11/2, RLODC: 10/1, T20: 13/2
The King (Sangakkara) is dead (seeing out his glittering playing career in a number of T20 competitions worldwide), long live the kids (the Surrey youth system).
Wait, what? Moneybags Surrey? The Surrey who have picked up South African duo Morne Morkel and Dean Elgar and have their eye on Indian superstar Virat Kohli for 2018? The ones with the brown hats and swagger? Actually producing players not buying in players? $$$urrey?
2018 is the Year of Youth for Surrey.
The sudden influx of youngsters has been partially thrust upon Surrey, with Zaf Ansari, Mark Footitt and Dom Sibley ending their times at the club mid-season, Matt Dunn spending extended time on the sidelines, and a severe loss of form from Scott Borthwick. However, credit must go to Michael Di Venuto for his work integrating a fine set of young players into Surrey's squad, and with all of them stepping up to the plate across the season. A maiden first-class hundred from Ollie Pope, a maiden 50 from Ryan Patel, Amar Virdi looking at home bowling to high-quality batsman, Connor McKerr tearing it up on a short-term loan at Derbyshire, and Sam Curran showed once again, if sporadically, why he’s considered one of the most talented young players in the country, all suggest that this squad has a good future.
Two more academy players, Will Jacks and Gus Atkinson, have signed their first professional deals this winter. The strength of the young contingent at the Kia Oval is really shown by Euan Woods, who was at the under-19 World Cup with England, not having received a contract at the time of writing.
If Surrey are going to compete in all three formats, these youngsters are going to have to have to do some leg work this summer.
In the Championship, Surrey’s core remains strong, but not having the best part of 1500 runs at an average of over 100 from Kumar Sangakkara will be sorely missed. Along with Jason Roy missing parts of the summer with England and the IPL, Sangakkara’s absence will put more pressure on Mark Stoneman, skipper Rory Burns and Ben Foakes, with places now up for grabs for younger players around them. An overseas batsman secured sooner rather than later would certainly help.
Stoneman’s potential England berth will hurt Surrey. Even if he is dropped by England, Mr Consistent Rory Burns should be in the running to replace him. With Mark Ramprakash calling for more batsmen to top 1,000 runs a year, having achieved the feat four times in four years, it remains a mystery to Surrey fans as to why he didn’t receive Lions recognition over the winter.
Surrey will be looking for a lot more out of Scott Borthwick: a player of his class surely can’t have two shocking seasons back-to-back. Ollie Pope will also be given a chance to cement his place at the start of the year, and Sam Curran looks to be in good touch with the bat in preseason.
Surrey’s real issue in red ball cricket will be taking 20 wickets a game. A very flat Kia Oval wicket, and a bowling attack that lacked a spearhead hindered Surrey significantly in 2017. No bowler took more than 25 wickets in the County Championship, with only Rikki Clarke and Footitt averaging under 30. Ten draws, two more than any other team, kept Surrey in the Division, but their third-place finish flattered the team somewhat.
If Morne Morkel remains fit, Surrey will have a bowler who will be able to take wickets on flat decks. He will really need some support though if they are going to win more than just the two games they won in 2017.
2018 is probably a couple of seasons too early for Surrey to challenge for the County Championship. A mid-table finish would be a good result.
Surrey have competed well in white ball cricket over the past couple of years, but their lack of late-order hitting still hasn’t been resolved. This may provide an opportunity for the likes of the hard-hitting Will Jacks and the versatile Pope to really make a mark in coloured clothing.
In the RLODC, Sangakkara will again be missed. His hundreds against Northants, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire over the last two years were as good as any knocks as you will see.
Ben Foakes was a revelation in the 50 over format, averaging 96 across the whole competition in 2017, and Mark Stoneman provided strong top order runs averaging 60, which included 144* in the final, only to be outdone by Alex Hales doing only things Alex Hales can do.
Dernbach (a much better bowler than when he was playing for England), Morkel, two Currans, Rikki Clarke and Gareth Batty makes for a strong a bowling line up as any. Don’t be surprised to see spinner Freddie van den Bergh getting some one-day game time as the club seeks to find a successor for Batty, who has turned 40 in the off-season and is in the last year of his contract.
Surrey will most likely go well in the Royal London One Day Cup on the back of their bowling, but without Sangakkara, reaching another final is unlikely.
Surrey’s Vitality Blast team again lacks lower-order hitting, something that Mitch Marsh would definitely have added. Aaron Finch is back to provide top-order pyrotechnics alongside Jason Roy, and the team’s bowling will be strong on slow Oval wickets. Like 2017, they should be targeting getting out of the group stages, but a second overseas batsman to replace Marsh is a necessity if they are going to achieve this.
All-in-all 2018 will be a year of consolidation for Surrey. If the core of their current squad remains in South London, trophies could well be heading their way in the near future.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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