Growing up, the start of the domestic season would often coincide with the start of World Snooker Championship, so, in a way, it’s reassuring to see that symmetry return.
Covid-19 has presented cricket with a number of snookers to negotiate, but Surrey have been at the forefront of not only devising a two-month schedule that provides a balance between red-ball and white-ball cricket, but also how it can be safely played in front of spectators.
The prospect of losing the entire season to Covid-19 overtook the stress, felt by many a county cricket fan last winter, that The Hundred would get in the way of proper cricket in 2020. So if there has been one positive to come out of the global pandemic, it’s that the start of the new format has been put back 12 months.
It remains to be seen whether the T20 Blast – which, hitherto, has attracted capacity crowds at the Oval – can also avoid being played behind closed doors.
But with T20 games set to be broadcast on a daily basis and a good chance that England’s Test and ODI stars will be available to play in it, this year’s Blast could be the best ever.
Let’s hope it is because The Hundred really could do with a re-think.
Each team will play five four-day group-stage matches – one against each county in their group – with the two group winners with the most points progressing to a five-day final.
Surrey’s group includes Essex, the reigning county champions, who not only remain strong on paper, but are also unlikely to be undermined to the same extent by England calls.
It will be about getting off to a good start and going for wins rather than draws to build-up a points tally.
With both Rory Burns and Ollie Pope now established at Test level and the absence (at least initially) of Kolpak-signing Hashim Amla, Surrey’s batting line-up picks itself. But there’s still plenty of competition for places with the ball. That was underlined, last weekend, by the omission of Dernbach and Plunkett for the friendly with Middlesex.
I should have added that to win silverware you need a bit of luck, so when Surrey are on top may there be blue skies and if they’re struggling …actually, let’s just have unbroken sunshine. We’ve been denied three and a half months of the season. We don’t need to lose any more.
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