Surrey cricket is in crisis. Again.
For all the positive news and changes that have emerged from The Oval in recent months, today’s home Championship game of the season, against Derbyshire, is crucial for Surrey as they seek an unlikely escape from relegation back to the second tier of the four-day county game.
Surrey have not won a Championship game all season. They need to start winning now, playing on a wicket that has been well-watered.
Derbyshire starts today, then Surrey face a derby of another sort, with their rivals from across the Thames, Middlesex, starting at The Oval next Tuesday, before a trip to Edgbaston and then hosting title-challengers Yorkshire for the last match of the season.
There looks to be little opportunity among that lot for maximum point scores that they require.
Surrey go into the match off the back of an absolute thumping at Durham, demoralised and riddled with doubt about the side’s ability to pull itself out of the mire, compounded with disappointment after losing in the final of the T20 competition.
Hashim Amla, the world’s leading batsman recruited for the end of the season to replace the injured skipper, Graeme Smith, must have wondered what he got himself into as the Surrey wickets tumbled around him at the Riverside.
Kevin Pietersen? He won’t be around in his county side’s hour of need: he announced before the end of the final Ashes Test that he was off to the beach with his kids. Some might suggest that’s taking the piss at The Oval, but apparently that means something different now.
All Surrey’s Championship games at The Oval this summer so far have been draws, testament to some bad luck with the weather and an inability to bowl sides out twice. Yet they go into this latest match without Jade Dernbach, their leading wicket-taker after Chris Tremlett, who has been called up for England one-day duties alongside Gary Wilson.
Gareth Batty, the veteran spinner, goes into the game needing six victims to reach a career 500 first-class wickets. Surrey need that sort of performance from him and another under-performer in the side this summer, Zander de Bruyn, to help skittle out a Derbyshire side which, while seemingly unspectacular, has been in good form lately, winning their last two Championship matches.
Even a win by Sunday might be too little, too late for Surrey. Prepare for Division Two cricket at Whitgift next summer.
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