Surrey beat Worcestershire to clinch first County Championship title for 16 years
Surrey have been crowned county champions after defeating Worcestershire at New Road, a victory that keeps them on course for an undefeated season and a record-breaking number of wins.
It has been an incredibly dominant season from Michael Di Venuto’s side, with half of their 10 victories thus far coming by at least an innings and the continuation of a 25-match unbeaten streak at The Oval that stretches back to 2014.
Captain Rory Burns has led by example at the top of the order, with another 1000-run season expected to result in an overdue England call-up in the coming days and Burns is a homegrown talent in a team full of them.
While Surrey continue to be one of cricket’s richest counties, capable of attracting virtually any player, much of their success has come down to the conveyor belt of talent emerging from their academy.
Seven of the XI that sealed the title at New Road were homegrown players while many more – including Sam Curran, Jason Roy, Stuart Meaker, Arun Harinath and Matt Dunn – have contributed at different points throughout the season. Ryan Patel and Jamie Smith look like the next cabs off the rank as Surrey continue to mesh talented young players with quality, experienced performers.
Former South Africa paceman Morne Morkel has starred with the ball as a Kolpak player while compatriot Dean Elgar impressed as an overseas batsman. Virat Kohli had been scheduled to sign for the club for six weeks in what would have been a huge boon for county cricket and indeed Surrey’s attendances but, in the end, they didn’t even need the firepower of the world’s finest batsmen to carry them to a championship that comes with two matches to spare.
It is the first for the county since 2002 when, incredibly, Rikki Clarke was in the team. Having returned to Surrey from Warwickshire last year, veteran all-rounder Clarke provides a neat link between the glorious past, victorious present and bright future of Surrey.
That 2002 title was the end of a previous golden generation that sealed three championships in four years. That team contained the likes of Ian Ward, Alec Stewart, Mark Butcher, Graham Thorpe, Alex Tudor and Mark Ramprakash but it was a title won in the immediate aftermath of Ben Hollioake’s tragic death.
Some time has passed since the untimely departure of the much-missed Tom Maynard, in 2012, but he will be in the hearts of this team, whose core were great friends with the immensely-talented young batsman.
Maynard will be remembered as Surrey celebrate their well-earned championship, the result of a dominant season on the field and a lot of wise decision-making and good coaching off it.
They too could end up being considered a golden generation and, looking at the raft of talent trying to break into the team, there is every chance that the realisation hits the rest of the counties sooner rather than later. For now though, there is work to do. The championship is secured but an unbeaten season remains the goal.