Champions always expect teams to come harder at them and Surrey will not be short of challenges in the opening stages of their defence of the LV County Championship title.
The first assignment of the 2023 County Championship season will be at Old Trafford, against runners-up Lancashire, on Thursday April 6. It’s Maundy Thursday, the game due to be completed on Easter Sunday.
The Red Rose county ended Surrey’s hopes of going through the whole 2022 Championship Division One campaign unbeaten, inflicting defeat by an innings and 130 runs when the sides met there in September with the title having already been secured. And it’s not a ground on which Surrey have enjoyed much success in recent times, having not won there since 2004, which should send Rory Burns and his side up the M6 with even more than their usual determination.
A week later, Surrey entertain Hampshire – the closest challengers last summer, despite slipping to third in the final round – at The Kia Oval. James Vince’s men will have sore memories of their last two visits to Kennington, a shattering defeat by an innings and 289 runs in 2021 one of the heaviest in the county’s history.
That was followed by another trouncing 12 months later, by an innings and 17 runs, led by Ollie Pope’s century and eight wickets for Jamie Overton.
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Away from the men’s County Championship campaign, followers of South East Stars can make an early return to Manchester on Saturday April 22 as they take on Thunder in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
A week off will doubtless be much appreciated by Burns and company but they are back in 4-day action against Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Thursday 27th April. The Bears only evaded relegation through a miraculous last-ditch victory on the final day of last season, sending down Yorkshire instead, and it will be an early opportunity for Dominic Sibley to shine at the ground which became his adopted home between 2017 and 2022 before heading back to The Kia Oval.
Surrey’s last success in Birmingham came in August 2016 when they won by an overwhelming 226 runs.