The County 40 over competition began in earnest this week and Surrey kick off their campaign on Sunday at the Oval. Chris Adams was coy at best regarding Surrey’s chances of winning it when interviewed earlier in the season, but here are my thoughts for what its worth.
We were impressive in the CB40 last season until about July. Really impressive. The opening pair of Davies and Hamilton-Brown were consistently spectacular, both finishing with impressive 40+ averages and 100+ strike rates. They regularly gave us fantastic starts and one of those led to the world record total against Worcestershire. I don't think it'll be long before England come a calling for Hamilton-Brown's hitting prowess at the top of the order.
However their attacking play didn’t come without risk and we came a cropper whenever the openers failed. There is every reason to stick with that opening pair but the guys lower down the order also have to deliver when the openers don't. It will be interesting to see where Michael Brown fits into Adams' plans as well, he may slot in at number three if Ramprakash scales back his limited overs workload. We regularly suffered from a lack of middle order runs so de Bruyn should go some way to filling this gap (his part time bowling will come in very handy too).
On the bowling front we had a tendency to live and die on one player having a great day or a terrible day, none more so than Tremlett. His form in the 40 over games last season was curious, rarely did he really hit his straps. Arafat, notwithstanding his poor start in the Championship, could be crucial along with Dernbach and his slower balls. Ultimately last season we didn't take enough wickets, Batty and Jade finished the season as our leading wicket takers with 12 each, Somerset and Sussex, the two teams who finished above us both had at least one 20+ wicket taker.
Before his injury which kept him out of cricket in 2010 Chris Jordan was briefly employed as an opening bat in the limited overs games, and with some success. His pinch-hitting abilities might come in useful, not to mention his bowling of course, I wouldn't be surprised to see him named in the side to face Scotland on Sunday.
Again the lack of a penetrative spinner could cost us, though less so than in the Championship, Batty is an accomplished one day spinner and perhaps Schofield will have one of his 'bowling years' (2010 was a batting year for Schoey) - though his start in the Championship would suggest not.
An interesting player in this format is Matt Spriegel. I would really like to see his bowling develop, with his height he can generate discomfiting bounce and using him as an opening bowler in 40 over or T20 cricket should be looked at. I think batting him at number 8 and bowling his full quota might be the way forward, but Gareth Batty's experience may squeeze him out more often than not.
Surrey have a good recipe for success in this format, we have power right through the batting order and good bowling options. It is still a young side, and inexperience might cost them in a tight run chase here or there, but the side is chock-full of talent. We should unquestionably be looking at getting to the latter stages of the CB40, and winning it is not out of the question.
Key men: Jade Dernbach - his game suits the 40 over format, plenty of variation, just needs to work on the economy rate which was still too high last year. Zander de Bruyn - middle order runs, experience - he can be our 'finisher' - and the odd wicket or two are just what the doctor ordered.