Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Surrey Play Generation Game in a Bid to Find the Winning Habit Again; Surrey Keys: Experienced Campaigners Mark Ramprakash ( Left) and Pedro Collins ( Right) Will Be Vital for the Team's County Championship Bid, While Another Veteran, Chris Lewis ( above), Is on Board to Play in the Twenty Cf Ce Cup

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Surrey Play Generation Game in a Bid to Find the Winning Habit Again; Surrey Keys: Experienced Campaigners Mark Ramprakash ( Left) and Pedro Collins ( Right) Will Be Vital for the Team's County Championship Bid, While Another Veteran, Chris Lewis ( above), Is on Board to Play in the Twenty Cf Ce Cup

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID LLOYD

TWENTY20 may be the f lavour of the month in India. But the realprospect of launching a championship challenge after too many seasons ofunder-achievement is what will quicken pulses for Surrey and their supportersthis week.

The 120-year-old blue riband event of domestic cricketworth a less than mind-boggling [pounds sterling]100,000 to the top dogs in 2008remains the prize that tops most wish lists. And Surrey believe they can mounta real challenge this time, starting tomorrow against Andrew Flintoff 'sLancashire at The Oval.

Since capturing the title twice (2000 and 2002) in three seasons, the countywho made winning trophies a habit have not only failed to land a meaningfulblow in the oldest competition but also suffered the pain of relegation in2005.

For much of last summer the 'R' word was again being uttered around The Oval.But after losing their opening three championship matches, and failing to winany of the first seven, they finished with three victories and an unbeaten runof 10 games to take fourth place and raise hopes for a new campaign.

"The important thing is to recapture the spirit and the quality of cricket weshowed at the end of last summer," said head coach Alan Butcher. "We startedlast season abysmally and had we played only averagely well in the first halfwe may have been in contention for the title.

"It's in our hands to try to make sure we start this season as well as wefinished the last one. I do believe we have depth to do that, and we certainlyhave a huge desire." It has been all change at The Oval in recent months. Goneare familiar faces such as Ian Salisbury, Rikki Clarke, Azhar Mahmood and NayanDoshi while in have come the (brief ly) former England batsman Usman Afzaal,experienced West Indian paceman Pedro Collins and, after a short stay withSussex, old spin favourite Saqlain Mushtaq.

Oh, and purely with Twenty20 in mind, the county's former all-rounder ChrisLewis, now 40 but apparently fighting fit, is back in the fold.

For the first time in a while, then, Surrey look to have the right blend offreshness and experience to mount not only a championship challenge but to becompetitive in all four competitions.

But if April promise is to be fulfilled later in the season then one suspectstwo players at opposite ends of the career line will need to blow hotthroughout.

Mark 'Mr Amazing' Ramprakash dominated Surrey's batting to an even greaterextent in 2007 than he had the previous year, again averaging 100 inchampionship cricket (the first player to do that in consecutive seasons) butlast summer scoring more than 30 per cent of the team's runs.

At 38, Ramprakash shows no signs of slowing downand should be an inspiration for 19-year-old Chris Jordan. In five matchestowards the end of last term, the Dulwich College, Barbadosborn youngsterwho, before long, may have to choose between playing for West Indies or Englandtook 20 championship wickets with his nippy pace bowling and hinted at realtalent with the bat. …

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