SURREY V MIDDLESEX at the Kia Oval (LVCC1), 15-18 MAY 2016

Fifth meets eighth in what will not only be the 265th London derby in first-class cricket, but what could also be a pivotal contest in terms the prospects of both sides in this season's County Championship.

Ever since overcoming Middlesex by an innings at the end of 2005, Surrey have suffered at the hands of the posh kids from over the river in four-day cricket. Even that clash carries unhappy memories. Middlesex declared as soon as they had all five batting bonus points in the bag in order to deny Surrey two bowling points and, therefore, make the Oval outfit's relegation an even greater certainty after parting company with Head Coach Steve Rixon just the week before.

In 6 of their last seven championship clashes with Middlesex, Surrey have been under par with the bat, particularly in the first innings. Indeed, the torment of the back-to-back innings defeats at Lord's, in 2010 and 2011, is still fresh in the minds of many a 'rey fan. Talking of innings defeats, Surrey were on the wrong end of their first for three years, last week up at Headingley. It's only a small crumb of comfort to know that their last three innings rolickings have been followed immediately by a victory in the very next championship game.

Sam Robson (482 championship runs at an average of 96.40) comes into this in scintillating form, with three hundreds to his name already this summer - just a quarter of the way into the four-day campaign. Wicketkeeper John Simpson, who has hit three half-centuries, looks back to his best with the willow in hand. Of course, at number three, Middlesex have a man averaging 95.50 in Test cricket, namely Adam Voges. Even James Harris, at ten, has a first-class career average of 20.90 with the bat.

Middlesex's bowling attack hasn't been alone in finding the early season conditions weighted in the favour of the batsmen. But, still, Finn, Murtagh and Roland-Jones are all into double figures in terms of championship scalps. Steven Finn, like Nick Compton, is due to be on international duty later this week, so will miss this clash. If the pitch looks likely to take spin, that could see Ravi Patel take his place. If not, expect to see the former Gloucestershire seamer James Fuller make his Middlesex debut.

Steven Davies's 117 against Yorkshire last weekend was the the 1,998th century for Surrey in first-class cricket. Meanwhile, Matt Dunn currently has 96 f-c wickets to his name, while, going into this clash, Gareth Batty's first-class career haul against Middlesex stands at 49 wickets (at 29.40 runs apiece). Of the visiting contingent, Nick Gubbins has 923 f-c runs and Adam Voges starts with 997 first-class runs for Middlesex.

Surrey have named the same 13-man squad as travelled to Headingley, which suggests the bruised left thumb Zafar Ansari picked up in the Durham game could take some time. It also indicates that Stuart Meaker (groin), who made a return for the second team against MCC Young Professionals in the week, isn't yet considered one hundred per cent.

Yorkshire 8-11 May 2016 Lost By An Inns & 20 Runs Headingley 330 & 207 557-6d
Durham 1-4 May 2016 Match Drawn The Oval 457 & 244-6 607-7d
Somerset 24-27 Apr 2016 Match Drawn The Oval 463 & 181-8d 353 & 122-4
Nottinghamshire 10-13 Apr 2016 Lost By 3 Wickets Trent Bridge 225 & 389 446 & 172-7
Northamptonshire 22-25 Sep 2015 Match Drawn The Oval 410 & 125-5 110 & 514

Unfortunately last week, when Surrey needed it to rain for two days, it slipped the minds of the weather gods when it really mattered. It shouldn't be all about the weather, but, having checked it, we appear to be set for four full days. The pitch looks very similar to the previous two served up by Lee Fortis, so expect it to be a case of win the toss and bat. Going by the law of averages that suggests Middlesex will dictate terms; as Gareth Batty hasn't lost the toss this season and won the toss in the last two championship games of 2015. Verdict - the North Londoners to take advantage of an Ansari-less Surrey.

Robson, N.Gubbins, A.Voges (capt), D.Malan, J.Simpson (wk), J.Franklin, O.Rayner, T.Roland-Jones, T.Murtagh, J.Harris and R.Patel.

Paul Baldwin and Nigel Llong. Combined, these two have presided over nine Surrey championship victories, seven defeats and just five draws. The good news is that the last time Surrey lost at the Oval with either in charge was eight years ago, when Hampshire won by an innings and 122 runs. Leg-before-o-meter: 17.8% of dismissals.

3-5 Sep 2013 Lost By 146 Runs The Oval Middlesex Bat 145 & 238 294 & 235-9d
2-5 May 2013 Match Drawn Lord's Surrey Bat 338 & 85-1 166 & 514-8d
15-18 Aug 2012 Won By 8 Runs The Oval Surrey Bat 144 & 341 232 & 245
12-15 Apr 2012 Lost By 3 Runs Lord's Surrey Field 222 & 137 256 & 106
20-23 Jul 2011 Lost By 6 Wickets Guildford Surrey Field 117 & 379 308 & 190-4
27-29 Apr 2011 Lost By An Inns & 42 Runs Lord's Surrey Field 203 & 200 445
29-31 Jul 2010 Lost By An Inns & 44 Runs Lord's Surrey Bat 167 & 212 423
17-20 May 2010 Match Drawn The Oval Surrey Bat 490 & 207-3d 324 & 189-3
30 Jun - 3 Jul 2009 Match Drawn Lord's Middlesex Bat 392 & 99-5 385 & 246-5d
6-9 May 2009 Match Drawn The Oval Surrey Bat 388 & 242 445 & 184-9
21-24 Sep 2005 Won By An Inns & 39 Runs The Oval Middlesex Bat 686-5d 404-5d & 243
8-11 Jun 2005 Match Drawn Lord's Middlesex Bat 460 437 & 353-6d
19-22 May 2004 Match Drawn The Oval Surrey Bat 359 & 300-4d 487-9d
21-24 Apr 2004 Lost By 6 Wickets Lord's Middlesex Field 418 & 203 325 & 300-4
23-26 Jul 2003 Match Drawn Guildford Middlesex Field 411 & 94-0 385
27-30 Jun 2003 Match Drawn Lord's Middlesex Bat 568 370 & 218-2d
9-12 Sep 1999 Match Drawn Lord's Surrey Bat 585 284 & 499-5
15-17 Jul 1998 Won By 280 Runs Guildford Surrey Bat 150 & 420 115 & 175
15-17 Aug 1997 Won By An Inns & 125 Runs Lord's Middlesex Bat 531-9d 205 & 201
4-8 Jul 1996 Won By 7 Wickets The Oval Middlesex Bat 366 & 61-3 232 & 194