BY MARCUS HOOK
It’s hard to look beyond Surrey when thinking about who is best equipped to win this season’s County Championship.
In the last decade or so we have seen three sides win back-to-back championship titles – Sussex (in 2006 and 2007), Durham (in 2008 and 2009) and Yorkshire (in 2014 and 2015). So, given that the defending champions look even stronger on paper for the arrival of all-rounders Jordan Clark and Liam Plunkett, it’s no surprise Surrey will be starting as 9/4 favourites.
But to those who say the championship race is Surrey’s to lose, it’s worth remembering that just one of the last nine pre-season favourites to lift the trophy have actually gone on to do so (Yorkshire in 2015).
That said, you need to go back to 2012 for the last ante-post fancy to finish outside the top four. So, make no mistake, Surrey will be one of the sides to beat if not THE side to beat.
How many counties would be keen to come up against a bowling attack comprising Conor McKerr, Stuart Meaker, Matt Dunn, Gus Atkinson and Gareth Batty? I pose that question simply because, last summer, they made just eight championship appearances between them.
With Clark and Plunkett also in the mix now, there will be a real scrap between Surrey’s seamers to see who can win and, indeed, hold on to a place in the four-day team.
When picking my probable lineup for the first match against Essex, I ended up going for five seamers and therefore no spin (although that could be good news for Scott Borthwick, who, let’s not forget, got his chance with England as a leg-spinner).
But just imagine, even if you’re Sir Alastair Cook, turning up for the first day at the Oval to see a Surrey team sheet that promises no respite.
All the talk at press day was of the hunter becoming the hunted, but Surrey’s current bowling attack only knows one way – and that’s to hunt, relentlessly, as a pack.