It's been a busy old weekend and early week, so apologies for the lack of blogging. The last two YB40 matches caught the attention of few people, as evidenced by the lack of comments and e mails about them. People have been understanding about the fielding of a weaker team and appreciate that the next two weeks are massive.
It's funny though. Week by week we all think through our team selections and none of us are privy to the things going on in the background that can dictate one player's involvement and the exclusion of others. I once had a chat with John Morris, who told me that if fans knew half of what went on in the background they would never query a team selection.
This week is a classic case. There will be no Chesney Hughes, now heading back to the Caribbean for the birth of his first child (hope all goes well, Ches) and quite possibly no Tim Groenewald either, who has become a proud father today. Warm congratulations go to Tim and his lovely wife on their new arrival!
Lovely, exciting times for both of them, but a challenge for Karl Krikken. He has to find a replacement for his leading wicket-taker, as well as an opening batsman for the game against Surrey, which if it isn't conclusive to the season's destiny will go some way towards it.
I think that Paul Borrington will rightly get the nod as Ben Slater's opening partner, based on his good form in one-day cricket this summer and his recent century in the second team. Importantly, he has a good record at The Oval, making runs there in the recent YB40 game, while in 2011 he made a technically excellent 87 there, on what was effectively a beach on which no one else got more than 32.
I know Billy Godleman made a few runs down at Colchester, but it has been a painful time following his fortunes this summer. It is also perhaps telling that his highest scores have come against his former counties and his form in the second team has not suggested that his struggle for form is yet fully resolved.
We're going to see Madsen, Chanderpaul and Hughes minor in the middle order, but the wicket will dictate whether Wes Durston returns, or Richard Johnson plays as a specialist batsman once again. Conversely, Johnson could take the gloves from Tom Poynton, which might allow for the inclusion of a specialist spinner.
My best guess towards the finished side, assuming that Groenewald will be unavailable, is:
Yes, I'd love to see Jon Clare in there, but have seen nothing to suggest he is close to fitness. Tom Knight has been bowling well, but a season championship debut at such a stage would be a brave move. The above team has seven bowlers and sufficient variety to make the most of any conditions. Surrey are low on confidence but have some handy and experienced players, not least Hashim Amla, one of the world's best.
We could win the game, but need big contributions from senior players and the timing would be perfect for a Chanderpaul special. Having said that, a draw wouldn't be the end of the world, as long as Somerset don't do as well at Lords against Middlesex.
Finally tonight, Derbyshire target Matt Coles has joined Hampshire on loan for the remainder of the summer. I haven't a clue if it will affect our chances of signing him on a permanent basis, but his new county have a chance to see him up close. There is an interesting appraisal of the player in the latest Cricinfo Supporters Network post from Ben Howarth, which is well worth a read, as are all of the contributor posts.
Enjoy your Wednesday, for battle commences on Thursday...