SURREY V GLOUCESTERSHIRE at the Brit Oval (LVCC2), 3-6 MAY 2006

With not one Gloucestershire batsman averaging over thirty-five in last season's County Championship, the Bristolians surprised many when they not only posted a first innings total of 437 in this summer's opener, but then went on to bowl Somerset out for 143.

The victory, by an innings and seven runs, was all the more encouraging given that, during the winter, Chris Taylor was stripped of the captaincy without being told about it until his successor, Jon Lewis, was unveiled as the new man at the helm. On top of that, Gloucestershire had just learned that one of their overseas signings, Kiwi speedster Shane Bond, would now be withdrawing his labour.

Thankfully they had drafted in Australian Ian Harvey to help them open the 2006 campaign. Following his decent all-round performance against Somerset a couple of weeks ago, the Gladiators will no doubt have been trying to twist his arm to stick around a bit longer. Gloucestershire's other overseas acquisition, Hamish Marshall, is available at the end of the current South Africa v New Zealand series.

Unfortunately, as with the corresponding fixture last summer, the weather forecast for days three and four suggests that this will be a battle for first innings bonus points. So, it also means that Gloucestershire are likely to maintain their unbeaten championship run against Surrey, which stretches back to 1995. It would be further frustration for the hosts, as they feel they ought to have won on both occasions last term.

That they failed to do so was due in no small part to the efforts of Alex Gidman, who has a first-class record against Surrey of 446 runs at an average of 89.20, and Steve Adshead, who averages 52.33 with the bat against the Oval outfit.

Mark Ramprakash, with 6,831, is closing in on seven thousand first-class runs for Surrey. The former Middlesex man also has a tally of 907 runs in his career against Gloucestershire. Alistair Brown has made a total of 39 first-class hundreds, while Mark Butcher has 29. For tomorrow's visitors, Craig Spearman has 4,848 first-class runs to his name. Matt Windows has 8,996.

The good news is that Azhar Mahmood and Jimmy Ormond are back in the Surrey line-up after being rested. But the fact they were stood down at the weekend suggests that they may not be firing on all cylinders. This could mean that James Benning will be one of the unlucky ones to miss out (assuming the hosts opt to include Jade Dernbach as cover in the seam department).  

Leicestershire 26-29 Apr 2006 Won By 99 Runs Leicester 370 & 287-7d 244 & 314
Derbyshire 19-22 Apr 2006 Match Drawn The Oval 308 & 476-8d 492
Middlesex 21-24 Sep 2005 Won By An Inns & 39 Runs The Oval 686-5d 404-5d & 243
Warwickshire 10-13 Sep 2005 Match Drawn Edgbaston 225 & 313-5d 338 &26-0
Hampshire 24-27 Aug 2005 Match Drawn The Oval 378 & 302 361-6d

Looking at the weather forecast, unless the so-called experts have got it completely wrong, it is very unlikely that this game will end positively. If it does, though, it could well be because Gloucestershire were without the influential Jon Lewis, who has been called up for England A' game against the Sri Lankan tourists. 

C Spearman, P Weston, M Windows, C Taylor, A Gidman (capt), I Harvey, S Adshead (wk), M Hardinges, M Ball, J Averis and S Kirby.

Graham Burgess and Nigel Llong.

16-19 Aug 2005 Match Drawn The Oval Gloucestershire Bat 463 350 &294-6
8-11 Jul 2005 Match Drawn Bristol Surrey Bat 603 & 84-3 288 & 494
18-21 Jun 2004 Match Drawn The Oval Surrey Field 598 368 & 255-9
2-4 Jun 2004 Lost By 6 Wickets Bristol Surrey Bat 298 & 213 406 & 106-4
13-16 Apr 1999 Match Drawn The Oval Gloucestershire Field 342 & 229-7d 213 & 209-5
22-24 Jul 1998 Lost By 2 Wickets Cheltenham Surrey Bat 297 & 135 167 & 266-8
14-16 May 1997 Lost By 9 Wickets The Oval Surrey Bat 115 & 269 371 & 15-1
23-27 May 1996 Match Drawn Gloucester Gloucestershire Bat 228-6d & 174-8 373 & 163-2d
27-30 Apr 1995 Won By 93 Runs The Oval Gloucestershire Bat 217 & 475 392 & 207
26-30 May 1994 Won By 1 Wicket Gloucester Surrey Field 72-3d & 354-9 319-7d & 106-4d
15-17 Jul 1993 Won By An Inns & 66 Runs Guildford Surrey Field 381 153 & 162
26-29 Jun 1992 Won By 4 Wickets Bristol Surrey Field 300-5d & 232-6 352-9d & 178
16-18 Jul 1991 Won By 2 Wickets Guildford Gloucestershire Bat 250-3d & 252-8 304-9d & 197-3d
28-31 Jul 1990 Match Drawn Cheltenham Surrey Field 200-6d & 302-9 301 & 202-4d