August 15, 2013

Surrey somewhat undervalued

With a batting line-up that has misfired and overseas players who have failed to perform, Surrey are far from favourites for the Flt20 but are capable of springing a surprise

A trip to Twenty20 Finals Day and Hashim Amla in a Surrey shirt: in the same week. This in the same season that we've seen Graeme Smith and Ricky Ponting turn out for the club. If as Surrey fans we've been starved of success a little this season, we can't complain about the recruitment policy.

Yes, it's another example of Surrey splashing the cash and yes, it'll be embarrassing if we are still relegated despite having such luminaries on our books this year. Will it be enough to stave off relegation? Well, we certainly shouldn't have much trouble posting scores. Amla has played eight games in the Championship for Essex and Nottinghamshire, averaging 87 and recording nine scores of 50 or more.

I still wonder where 20 wickets are going to come from though. With the participation of Stuart Meaker in doubt for the remainder of 2013 a lot depends on our spinners. Amla's inclusion in the top six may mean a more adventurous approach to the bowling. I would expect five bowlers to be the norm from now on in, but do we have the match winners?

In Linley, Tremlett and Dernbach we have three fine seamers, but Keedy and Batty have just 29 wickets at 47 between them. That's not scaring anyone. They'll need to shoulder much more of the wicket-taking burden and hopefully the fact that most of our opponents in the final six games will be looking for a positive result rather than be happy to play for a draw might work in our favour too.

Amla won't, of course, turn out for Surrey at Edgbaston in the Friends Life t20 finals day on Saturday but Surrey are set to welcome back Glenn Maxwell. I hear the deafening silence of the nonplussed supporters who saw Maxwell in six group games score just 87 runs and take no wickets.

It's hard to deny the fact that Million Dollar Maxwell was a disappointment, but maybe, just maybe he's due a performance. In Australia A's recent one day series he scored 256 runs in five matches at the preposterous strike rate of 168, and also took a wicket in each innings. That's precisely the kind of form he didn't display for us, so it's high time he did.

A few more runs from him would be very welcome. Our batting looks weak in comparison to two of the other three semi-finalists so some more middle-order power would go down very nicely indeed.

There is some logic in keeping a settled top three of Steven Davies, Jason Roy and Vikram Solanki, with room for flexibility thereafter. Gary Wilson, Azhar Mahmood and Maxwell can effectively fill any of the slots at four, five and six, and there's a bit of insurance with Zafar Ansari and Zander de Bruyn down the order.

As ever we will rely heavily on a rapid start from Davies and Roy to set the tone. In recent years we have struggled once losing our opening batsmen and this may be down to players not being certain of their role in the side - a problem that Hampshire, the side we face in the semi-final, do not suffer with at all.

We might not go into Finals Day as the most fancied side. In fact given our semi-final, we're probably the least fancied, but that won't bother the players. In Dernbach and Mahmood we have two of the finest death bowlers in the game. Jon Lewis' parsimony has been a revelation in this format and Tremlett, if he plays, can blast away the best of them.

In any case, T20 can be a bit of a lottery. Look at Leicestershire in 2011. The ECB might have robbed us of our captain, but they can't take away the fight which has got the team this far.

Josh Green has been riding the Surrey cricket blogging rollercoaster since 2009. He tweets here