The traditional curtain-raiser for the new domestic season begins this weekend as MCC take on Surrey at the ICC Academy in Dubai, in the annual Champion County Match.
The four-day first-class match, which sees MCC play the winners of the previous year’s Specsavers County Championship, starts on Sunday and will give players of both sides vital exposure to four-day action before the new season begins in England.
Stuart Broad is captaining the MCC side, leading a mix of experienced county players and youngsters who will be eager to make an impression in the UAE.
Sam Cook, Dan Lawrence and Tom Westley are a trio from Essex, who won the Specsavers County Championship in 2017. Tom Abell, Dominic Bess and Peter Trego make up a Somerset contingent of three, whilst Warwickshire are well represented in this year’s squad, with their opening pair of Dominic Sibley and Will Rhodes both included.
Worcestershire’s Ben Cox is MCC’s wicket-keeper for the match, and the left-arm spin of Lancashire’s Stephen Parry completes the team.
Surrey were runaway leaders of the Championship last year, finishing 46 points clear of second-placed Essex, winning ten games and losing only one. They have been preparing for the new campaign with training and match practice in the UAE, playing white-ball cricket before the Champion County Match.
The champions can include the likes of Rory Burns and Ben Foakes in their squad, who have recently been playing for England in their three-match Test series with the West Indies.
The former South African star Morne Morkel, who signed a two-year deal with Surrey last April, could be in line to lead the attack.
They will be aiming to replicate their success this time around and will be eager not to suffer the same fate as 2017 champions Essex, who were soundly beaten in last year’s Champion County Match at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.
Richard Gleeson starred for MCC in the first innings, taking 5 for 50 as Essex were all out for 187. Sam Hain and Dom Bess both hit centuries as MCC declared on 408 for 8, before Bess showed his all-round qualities, taking 6 for 51 as Essex were once again dismissed for 187.
This year’s match begins at 6.00am GMT on Sunday and there is a live stream available via the Lord’s website.