Chris Tremlett: Surrey's squad depth makes them favourites to retain their County Championship title

 
Chris Tremlett
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Surrey v Essex - Specsavers County Championship: Division One
Surrey won their first Division One title since 2002 last year (Source: Getty)

There are so many factors and variables which go into a County Championship season, but looking at the squads I think Surrey must be considered favourites to defend their title.


The first round of Division One fixtures begin on Friday, although Surrey kick off their campaign at home to Essex next week, and conditions, injuries and availability of the best players will all shape how it goes between now and September.

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That’s why I think squad depth is so important. Surrey have all bases covered, having strengthened the title-winning team through new signings and the progression of youngsters.

Liam Plunkett and Jordan Clark have joined the set-up, while Jamie Smith scored 127 against the MCC last month and could make the step up into the first team like Ollie Pope.


Surrey are full of confidence and having been around the club over the winter I feel their famous strut is making a comeback.

MCC v Surrey: Champion County  Match - Day 2
Jamie Smith (right) looks to be following in Ollie Pope's footsteps (Source: Getty)

They have plenty of players around the England squad, so will have to deal with losing the likes of Rory Burns and Jason Roy, but the depth appears to be there.

The season comes in two parts, with seamers dominating in the early stages on juicy wickets and spinners coming into their own at the back end of the campaign when pitches get dry.

You need ways to take 20 wickets and with Morne Morkel signed up for another year and Amar Virdi taking over the reins from Gareth Batty it looks a formidable attack.

Kolpak factor

Surrey are unlikely to have it all their own way though and Sir Alastair Cook’s availability for the entire season is a big boost for Essex.

Cook is a world-class opener who could still be playing international cricket and with the weight off his shoulders I expect him to score a lot of runs and help get the best out of his team-mates.

Essex also have a quality spinner in the form of Simon Harmer, who has taken 129 wickets in the past two seasons and will attack consistently.

Along with Morkel, Hampshire’s Kyle Abbott and Yorkshire’s Duanne Olivier, Harmer is a Kolpak signing who can make a huge impact this season.

Surrey v Essex - Specsavers County Championship: Division One
Morne Morkel took 59 wickets at an average of 14.32 last season (Source: Getty)

Kolpaks make a difference because they can commit for the whole campaign, buy fully into the team dynamic and find rhythm.

Warwickshire and Kent were promoted from Division Two last year and neither can be written off.

The Bears have lost Jonathan Trott to retirement and Keith Barker and Chris Wright to other teams, while Ian Bell is recovering from surgery, but they’re rebuilding and have some exciting youngsters who can keep them up.

Kent, meanwhile, always have the ability to spring a surprise, especially in the early season when Darren Stevens is a nightmare to face, even now he’s 42.

Surrey are my favourites, but predictions are very difficult to make in county cricket; Essex won the title in 2017 after being tipped by some for relegation.

It’s a long slog and over 14 games the consistency of the best side will be rewarded.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.