Essex’s rise to glory was well documented last summer. The club had won its first County Championship since 1992. This year, Surrey has ended a 16-year-long County Championship drought. The county’s success is being hailed as the beginning of a new era. Joy and jubilation engulfed the KIA Oval in London after Surrey were crowned County Champions for the 20th time
The last time Surrey lifted the County Championship in 2002. They were a bunch of believers led by Adam Hollioake. The team had quality players such as Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe, Mark Butcher, and Mark Ramprakash in their ranks. All these players brought a wealth of experience and skill into the team.
Come 2018, the team from London has once again defied all odds to lift the coveted title. This year, there are a lot of factors that have contributed to the team’s meteoric rise.
A New and Exciting Breed of Cricketers
The team management needs to be given its due share of credit for bringing in an exciting young breed of cricketers. Before the start of the Championship, Surrey’s team management brought together a bunch of young and exciting cricketers to take the team forward. Youngsters in Amar Virdi, wicketkeeper Ollie Pope, and the Curran brothers made vital contributions at crucial junctures in the County Championship to help the side overcome its opponents.
Amar Virdi, the 20-year-old off-break bowler, had the lights shining over him. He had 22 scalps in 14 Championship matches with wickets coming at crucial moments in the games. As far as the batting is concerned, Ollie Pope, the young wicketkeeper-batsman, aggregated close to a thousand runs (986) in 13 Championship matches at a remarkable average of over 70. Also, the likes of Ben Foakes (624 runs in 12 matches at around 37), all-rounder Rikki Clarke (500 runs in 13 matches at 31), and batsman Mark Stoneman (660 runs in 13 matches at 33) made significant contributions throughout the tournament whenever the team was caught wanting.
The Captain Leading from the Front:
The youngsters in their ranks were ably supported by Rory Burns, the captain. The 28-year-old is the only one of the two players to score more than 1000 runs this season. An aggregate of 1359 runs from 14 Championship games at a remarkable average of over 64 was enough for Rory Burns to earn a much-deserved national call-up. The captain’s exploits with the bat ensured Surrey always had enough runs to play with. Also, with a bunch of exceptionally talented youngsters surrounding him, Rory Burns had some great raw material to work with. The man from Surrey has been in a rich vein of form in the Championship season and scored as many as seven fifties and four hundreds.
The Overseas Recruits
A club as big and illustrious as Surrey never faced a dearth of resources. The balance sheets of the club have always been in the green. Given its reasonably strong financial health, the club was able to sign some tried and tested international cricketers. Dean Elgar, the South African opener was available for the initial part of the season and scored some valuable runs at the top of the order to help the team’s cause.
Earlier in the season, Surrey’s stocks soared to new heights when the Indian skipper decided to join Surrey as an overseas player to help him get used to the conditions before the all-important England tour. He, however, could not materialize his county stint due to a neck injury.
Morne Morkel, the lanky South African seamer, decided to join Surrey on a Kolpak deal during the early part of the county season after the coaches failed to give him an assurance that he’d be a part of their 2019 World Cup plans. The South African, much like many other players, decided to part ways with the national side in order to ply his trade in the county circuit. He has been Surrey’s spearhead so far, with 59 wickets in 10 matches with 4 five-wicket hauls. He is the second highest wicket-taker this season behind Lancashire’s Tom Bailey, who has 64 scalps.
The Coach’s Role
Let us not forget the role Michael Di Venuto played in transforming Surrey into a world-class county team. Last year, Surrey stood third in Division 1, with 2 wins, 2 losses, and as many as 10 games ending in a draw. The severe lack of a result-oriented approach had hampered the team’s chances of winning the Championship title last summer. This year though, they won the Championship title with a couple of games to spare. This turnaround of epic proportions was position only due to the sincere efforts of their coach, who has just completed his third season at the helm of affairs.
All in all, it has been a glorious year for Surrey. Whether or not they’re able to replicate their success next year is something many fans would be waiting to see, but for now, they can bask in this glorious sunshine.