This promises to be an exciting year for Surrey. As well as defending the County Championship title, The Kia Oval will be hosting a number of prestigious international matches.
The first international of the year at The Kia Oval takes place between June 7 and 11, when India and Australia meet in the World Test Championship final.
The Women’s Ashes Twenty20 match between England and Australia will then come to SE11 on July 5.
The fifth, potentially decisive, Ashes Test between England and Australia will be held at The Kia Oval between July 27 and 31 – and England fans will be hoping to see the Ashes regained and skipper Ben Stokes holding the urn aloft at the historic ground.
A one-day international between England and New Zealand on September 13 rounds off the international summer at SE11.
With so much to look forward to, chief executive Steve Elworthy is excited by the prospect of what could happen in the upcoming months.
“It’s unprecedented, with the two biggest Test matches in the world,” said Elworthy. “When you think about the Ashes and the World Test Championship, that brings a lot of off-field success because it puts The Kia Oval in a spotlight. We’re in for a big summer, which is brilliant.
“It will be India’s second go at the World Test Championship final and the Aussies have been number one in the world for a long time, so it’s a mouth-watering contest. We’re looking forward to it – it’s going to be an incredible spectacle.”
England’s Test side were in the doldrums a little over a year ago after a crushing 4-0 defeat in Australia in the previous Ashes series, but the team have since enjoyed a renaissance under new skipper Stokes – winning ten of their past 12 Test matches playing a swashbuckling brand of attacking cricket.
And Elworthy is looking forward to the fifth Test at The Kia Oval.
“The ideal situation for us for the Ashes would be for it to be 1-1 or 2-2 going into that fifth Test – but I’m not sure how many draws there are likely to be in the four games before,” he said.
“It will be fantastic if it got to that, but even if it was 2-1 and it was to level the series, that fifth Test could be a brilliant finale to the series.
“The quality of cricket both teams are playing now is incredible. We’ve seen some incredibly brave cricket and it’s turned out to be exciting – which has been superb for Test match cricket. People are starting to talk about Test cricket again, which is essential to keeping Test cricket alive.
“It’s exciting cricket because the game is being taken forward at pace. Captains are willing to take chances because the draw is way down on the list – they’d rather go for the win which is brilliant for the game.”
Surrey have enjoyed a positive start to the season, and sit joint-top of Division One of the County Championship with Warwickshire as they look to defend their title.
“Last year was my first at the club, but there were a lot of foundations in place,” said Elworthy.
“All credit goes to Alec Stewart, Gareth Batty and the team. The way they put the team together and how they went about their work during the course of the season was sensational. There were some special performances, but the key to the success was how they dovetailed. When somebody was out of form other people stood up and took wickets or scored runs – it was a perfect all-round team performance. It was a great summer.
“We’ve got some fantastic young talent coming through. That’s brilliant – we need to keep that pipeline and that pathway going.”
The Hundred also returns to The Kia Oval this summer, and the Oval Invincibles women’s team will be aiming for a third title in a row after successfully defending their title last summer.
The men will be looking to improve after again failing to reach the semi-finals in 2022.
“It was a fantastic effort by the women’s team to defend their title,” said Elworthy.
“They’ll want to make it three in a row. They’ve assembled a good squad and have every chance – they’re a formidable side.
“I know some supporters don’t like The Hundred, but the beauty of cricket is there’s a product for everyone. There’s a format for different audiences – we’ve got fantastic long-form red-ball cricket and brilliant short-form white-ball cricket.”
While Surrey have enjoyed an excellent 12 months and there is lots of exciting cricket to look forward to this summer, the sport’s reputation has been damaged by high-profile racism cases in the past few years.
Six former Yorkshire players were found to have used racist slurs at the club by the Cricket Discipline Commission in March – two-and-a-half years after Azeem Rafiq first went public with the racism he had suffered during his time at Yorkshire.
A report last year found Cricket Scotland to be institutionally racist.
The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket is expected to publish its report this year and make a number of recommendations to improve equity in the sport, and Elworthy says progress has to be made.
“We don’t have a definitive timeline of when the report is going to be released, but it will be a watershed moment for the game,” he said.
“It will shine a light on the game. We have to address these issues – you’ve got to lean into them and understand them. You’ve got to listen to people’s experiences, and we’ve got to adapt accordingly.
“There’s so much more we can be doing, and as a game we’re committed to doing that.
“The game will be in a far better place after we’ve put things into place to right some of the wrongs. The report is not going to be easy reading – there’s going to be some uncomfortable moments – but that pales into insignificance with the uncomfortable moments people have faced in the past.”