Surrey season preview
Hopes are high that Surrey can recapture the county championship for the first time since 2002.
By Graeme Mair
Last Updated: 14/04/08 5:21pm
The Butcher father-son, coach-captain axis enters its third season at Surrey with hopes high that the county championship title can be recaptured for the first time since 2002.
There has been a subtle revamping of the playing resources in an effort to improve on last season's fourth place finishes in the county championship and Pro40.
Rikki Clarke, a two-time England Test all-rounder, has left to become captain at Derbyshire after falling out of favour at the Oval in the second half of last season.
All-rounder Azhar Mahmood, former England Under 19 captain Rory Hamilton-Brown and veteran leg-spinner Ian Salisbury are other notable departures from the 2007 squad.
In their place arrive former England batsman Usman Afzaal from Northamptonshire and West Indies left-arm seamer Pedro Collins, who has retired from international cricket in order to ply his trade in the county game as a Kolpak.
The Pakistan Cricket Board have denied permission for Mohammad Asif to join Surrey, disappointing news as his mastery of reverse swing would have been perfectly suited to the Oval.
Turning back the clock
There also appears to be a sentimental strand to the recruitment policy with former stars Chris Lewis and Saqlain Mushtaq being brought back for second spells.
Off-spinner Saqlain - now a British citizen - returns in the hope of rekindling the remarkable success of his first eight-season stint with the club that ended in 2005, while 40-year-old Lewis - eight years removed from his last first-class appearance - has been given a contract to play in the Twenty20 Cup.
Mark Ramprakash enters the season on the back of consecutive 2,000-run summers and requires just three more centuries to join the hundred hundreds club.
At 39, he remains a superb physical specimen and there is no reason to think he will not continue his free scoring exploits for a few years yet. The key to Surrey's success will for the supporting cast - chiefly Scott Newman, Butcher and Ally Brown - to perform better than in 2007.
A fast start to the season must be the target after a run of three championships defeats to begin the last campaign left them fighting off the threat of relegation until a late surge moved them into the top half of the standings.
Big year for: Chris Schofield - The leg-spinner has re-established himself in the one-day format since being plucked out of the wilderness by Surrey, even earning England recognition in the Twenty20 format. With Salisbury gone, 2008 represents a chance for Schofield to prove his credentials in the four-day format.
Rising star: Chris Jordan - Jordan is an exciting all-round talent hailing from Barbados, arriving at the Oval by way of Dulwich College. The 19-year-old bowls at a lively pace and has the potential to bat in the middle-order.