Surrey seeking county championship hat-trick

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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runs at an average of just under 47 since making his debut in 1987.

Ramprakash still believes he has an England future and it was to strengthen his case for what would be a 10th Test recall that he moved across London from second- division Middlesex.

"I could not see a light at the end of the tunnel and it was time to take stock of my career. I don't want to finish my career with regrets or thinking about missed opportunities. I want to do everything I can to get back into the international side."

Injuries and the performance of England's present pace trio of Andy Caddick, Darren Gough and Craig White have seen Surrey paceman Alex Tudor, 23, out of the Test line- up since he made 99 not out against New Zealand at Edgbaston two years ago.

However, Surrey coach Keith Medlycott believes Tudor, who took 47 championship wickets last season, is ready to fire on all cylinders. "He's sharp, he has a run-up like a Rolls-Royce and he excites everyone at the club."

Surrey's England leg spinner Ian Salisbury had a poor tour of Pakistan but remains a tough challenge for most county players.

His 'spin twin', Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq, will return to the team after the triangular One-day series here. Saqlain was a key factor in Surrey's success last season taking 66 championship wickets at a miserly 15.39.

Medlycott expects Lancashire, runners-up for the last three seasons, to offer a strong title challenge once again. The Old Trafford team will be bolstered again by Sri Lanka off spinner Muthiah Muralitharan.

This will be the second season where the championship is split into two divisions and with three up, three down there will be plenty of 'meaningful' fixtures.

On the One-day front, Gloucestershire, which won three trophies last season, still looks the team to beat but it will be without the influential Jack Russell for at least a month. The former England wicket-keeper has a slipped disc in his back.

No county has won all four domestic trophies in one season and odds of 198-1 with bookmakers William Hill on a Surrey clean sweep is an understandably generous price.

"It's never been done before but it would be fantastic if Surrey was that side," said Medlycott. "But we've entered four trophies and we're not looking to leave one behind.

The visit of Australia deprives many counties of its first-choice overseas players, although it is a testament to the world champions' strength in depth that it still provides 11 out of the 18 visiting professionals.

Ever lengthening international schedules mean that the days when every county could boast an overseas Test player are fast disappearing. This season only three of the foreign cricketers in county cricket are Test regulars, Saqlain, Muralitharan and New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who is at Middlesex.

Copyright AFP 2001

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