Philander poised for Somerset debut
Somerset are set to unleash South Africa pace sensation Vernon Philander tomorrow when they host Middlesex at Taunton in the opening round of LV= County Championship Division One games.
The 26-year-old has taken a stunning 51 wickets in seven Tests and is due to represent Somerset for the first two months of the season.
Philander will offset the unavailability of fellow seamers Alfonso Thomas and Gemaal Hussain, respectively at the Indian Premier League and recovering from a hamstring injury, in an attack likely to feature spinner George Dockrell and all-rounder Craig Meschede.
Somerset director of cricket Brian Rose said: “Craig has bowled very effectively in pre-season. He has got some runs as well but, with Gemaal out, we need another seamer in the side and he fits the bill.
“Vernon Philander has settled in quickly and looks very fit so we have high hopes that he can help us make a good start to the season.”
Last year’s Division Two champions Middlesex will give late fitness tests to Joe Denly, who is on the verge of his debut after joining from Kent, and all-rounder Gareth Berg.
Andrew Strauss and Steven Finn are with England while Eoin Morgan is on Indian Premier League duty.
The other promoted side, Surrey, will give debuts to South Africa batsman Jacques Rudolph and wicketkeeper Rory Burns when they face Sussex at the Kia Oval.
Rudolph has arrived from the Proteas’ tour of New Zealand and Burns fills in for Steven Davies, who is on England duty along with county team-mate Kevin Pietersen. England paceman Chris Tremlett is still recovering from back surgery.
Jon Lewis, who has signed from Gloucestershire, could also make his bow after being named in a 13-man squad, which includes Stuart Meaker after his recovery from a stiff neck.
Surrey team director Chris Adams said: “We have worked hard during the winter and pre-season and our focus has always been to be fully prepared for this opening game against Sussex.
“We are excited by the prospect of what lies in front of us during the season and we are ready to take on the challenge of the first division, starting with Sussex on Thursday morning.”
Sussex are without England’s Matt Prior and Monty Panesar plus Luke Wright, who is at the IPL, and newly-signed Australian seamer Steve Magoffin who is not available until next week.
Captain Michael Yardy said: "They’re obviously a strong team. They have a lot of young talented players and the likes of Mark Ramprakash and Zander de Bruyn.
“I think if everything works for them they will be up there challenging (for the title), so it’s going to be a very difficult game, but that’s not to say that I don’t think we can go there and win because I think we can."
Michael Lumb and James Taylor are due to make their Nottinghamshire debuts against Worcestershire at Trent Bridge.
Neil Edwards will open the batting alongside Alex Hales, and one of the bowlers who played in the draw with Loughborough MCCU will make way for former New Zealand seamer Andre Adams.
Graeme Swann and Samit Patel are in England action in Sri Lanka, from where Stuart Broad returned last week to recover from a right calf strain.
Australian batsman Michael Klinger is set for his Worcestershire bow and seamer David Lucas could join him, having signed from Northamptonshire.