County Championship preview: Surrey’s Smith set for Somerset test

County Championship: After a rain-affected opening set of fixtures, Ryan Bailey previews the next round which starts on Wednesday

graeme smith
Smith played his 100th Test over the summer against England Photo: cormac70, via Flickr

Middlesex v Derbyshire – Lords

Middlesex will be confident of making it two wins from two when newly promoted Derbyshire visit the Home of Cricket this week. Chris Rogers’ side recorded an emphatic ten-wicket victory at Trent Bridge in the opening game to emphasise their title credentials. The Middlesex squad remains the same as for the victory over Nottinghamshire, with one change as Steven Finn replaces the injured James Harris. Derbyshire have been boosted by the news captain Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman have shaken off minor injuries for their trip to Lord’s. The opening duo suffered hamstring and back injuries respectively but both have been named in the Falcons’ unchanged 13-man squad which includes Shiv Chanderpaul.

Surrey v Somerset – The Kia Oval

All eyes will be on the Oval as Graeme Smith’s reign as Surrey captain gets underway against a Somerset side, who will be eager to bounce back from a surprising opening game defeat by Durham. New signings Gary Keedy and Vikram Solanki are named in the 13-man squad by director of cricket Chris Adams. England trio Chris Tremlett, Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker are all included along with Zander de Bruyn, who comes straight into the thirteen after returning from a winter in South Africa.

Chris Adams said: “Preparation for the season has gone very well and we are all excited to be playing our first game at the Kia Oval on Wednesday against what we know will be tough opposition”. He added: “Selection has been very difficult for all the right reasons as everyone is fit and available and I have had to leave out some very good players. The final XI will depend on the conditions we encounter on Wednesday morning but we have all bases covered and the balance between bat and ball is strong”.

Somerset’s batting will be significantly bolstered for the trip to London with the arrival of overseas signing Alviro Petersen and the return of Nick Compton, who has been made available by the ECB.

Warwickshire v Durham – Edgbaston

The County Champions started their campaign with a rain-ruined draw against Derbyshire, while Durham got off to a winning start thanks to a hard-fought 48-run victory over highly-fancied Somerset. Warwickshire are boosted by the return of Keith Barker and England all-rounder Chris Woakes after the duo missed the opening fixture with Tom Milnes and Laurie Evans expected to miss out. Meanwhile, Durham head coach Geoff Cook has decided to keep faith in his squad that played against Somerset, with no changes being made. Paul Collingwood has now won six out of the seven Championship games he’s taken charge of in a sequence extending well into last season but the visitors’ fragile batting line-up will need to be firing on all cylinders if they are to come away from Edgbaston with anything.

Glamorgan v Worcestershire – Cardiff

The Welsh county escaped with a draw in their opening county championship match against Northamptonshire, with two days lost to rain and will need to improve significantly if they have any aspirations of challenging for promotion. Glamogran have named an unchanged 12-man squad for the visit of Worcestershire with both Marcus North and Murray Goodwin included, while Michael Hogan will lead the bowling attack again. Meanwhile, Worcestershire will be full of confidence after a solid all-round display at Old Trafford secured an opening game draw. Steve Rhodes’ side are being tipped by many to struggle this season after losing the services of Phil Hughes and Vikram Solanki but their performance last week has highlighted their capabilities. The last time the two sides met at Cardiff for a Championship encounter was in September 2008, but the weather played a major role, washing out play on all four days.

Northamptonshire v Essex – Wantage Road

There is no surprise that Northants head coach David Ripley has named an unchanged side to face Essex at the County Ground this week after a dominant performance over Glamorgan in Cardiff last week. The Steelbacks were on course for victory before heavy rain on the final day washed out their chances of starting the campaign in perfect fashion. Australian bowler Trent Copeland will once again lead the attack but the onus will be on the batsman to score runs against a strong Essex bowling unit. Essex have been dealt a major blow with the news experienced seamer David Masters will miss the game through injury. His absence with a slight side strain gives youngster Reece Topley the opportunity to impress after being named in the 12-man squad ahead of Sajid Mahmood. Reacting to the poor bowling performance against Gloucestershire, head coach Paul Grayson is confident his seam attack will come good.

“Lessons have been learnt from the Gloucestershire game and I’m expecting us to bowl a lot better than that this week,” he told Essex’s website. “We are looking forward to the Northamptonshire match and it’s good to be able to get Reece back into the squad as well. We need good back-up players and competition for places so it’s good to be able to bring a quality bowler into the squad. Sajid Mahmood is unlucky that he hasn’t got the nod but we felt that, like for like, Reece would give us similar qualities to that offered by David Masters.”

Leicestershire v Kent – Grace Road

After coming away from the Ageas Bowl with a fortunate draw, Leicestershire head coach Phil Whitticase has demanded a stronger performance from his players in their first home game of 2013. The Foxes have been dealt a blow ahead of the game as Alex Wyatt, who bowled impressively last week, joins colleagues Nathan Buck (ankle) and Anthony Ireland (side strain) on the sidelines after sustaining a shoulder injury in the field. However, the return of Robbie Williams and all-rounder Rob Taylor has boosted their bowling options. Speaking to the club’s website, Whitticase has stressed the importance of an improved all-round display will be essential if they are to harbour any hopes of success in 2013. “It was never going to be an easy game. We bowled brilliantly in the first hour but then bowled the wrong lengths and they played well. We should have been better with both our batting and bowling”.

Kent begin their season with plenty of optimism after an encouraging debut season under Jimmy Adams. The Spitfires narrowly missed out on promotion and are one of the favourites to secure it this time around. They haven’t recruited any new players during the winter but a squad full of talented youngsters and experienced pros should be the perfect combination for success. James Tredwell will captain the side for the first time after taking over the reins from Rob Key while West Indian batsman Brendan Nash will be hoping to re-establish his form from last campaign. However, there is no place in the squad for Daniel Bell-Drummond despite scoring a century in last week’s game against Cardiff MCCU.

Did you know?

Somerset have won just once on their last eight away trips to Surrey, drawing four and losing three of these LV= County Championship fixtures.

Leicestershire have won just one of their last nine home games against Kent, drawing five and losing three of the other eight LV= County Championship meetings in this period.

Defending champions Warwickshire were unbeaten at home last season, winning three and drawing five of their eight LV= County Championship games at Edgbaston.

Chris Jordan took 6/48 in the first innings of Sussex’s game against Yorkshire, the third best bowling figures by a Sussex debutant, bumping his coach Mark Robinson down to fourth.

In round one of the 2013 LV= County Championship all eight toss-winning captains chose to bowl first, only the second time in history this has happened on the opening day (4+ fixtures).

Durham’s victory over Somerset was only the 12th time in the last 10 years a team won without any batsman scoring 50 but was the fifth instance at Chester-le-Street in that period.

Dan Housego’s maiden LV= County Championship century was the first 150 for Gloucestershire since July 2011 – only Leicestershire and Durham had gone longer without one.

Teams batting first at The Kia Oval have lost only two LV= County Championship matches in the last four seasons (W10 D12 L2).

Ravi Bopara has tallied over 300 more LV= County Chamionship runs against Northants than against any other team – scoring at least 150 in three of his last eight innings.

Darren Stevens recorded nearly a third of his 35 LV= County Championship wickets last season in Kent’s games against Leicestershire, taking 11 wickets at an average of 11.0 apiece.

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