INSIDE COUNTY CRICKET: Surrey class of ’23 are drawing on the rich legacy of Peter May, Stuart Surridge and Adam Hollioake… we are witnessing another truly great outfit brimming with talent
- The Surrey juggernaut is steaming toward yet another County Championship
- There is no question that we are witnessing another truly great county outfit
- Surrey have earned valid comparisons to the best sides this club has produced
It is a question becoming more pertinent with each victory as the Surrey juggernaut steams towards another County Championship. How do the side who look set to complete back-to-back titles compare with the great Oval teams of the past?
They may have some way to go to match the greatest of all Surrey sides who won seven successive Championships in the 1950s under Stuart Surridge and Peter May.
And they still have some way to go even to be rated alongside Adam Hollioake’s star-studded Surrey side who won three titles at the turn of the last century.
But there is no question we are witnessing another truly great county outfit, brimming with talent, home-grown and imported, and hot favourites to hold off Essex and add another of the four-day titles that remain the pinnacle outside of international cricket.
Such are the galaxy of stars at Surrey’s disposal that players like Dan Worrall can go under the radar. But the Australian, in his second season at the Oval as a non-overseas player with a British passport, has been an integral part in this season’s march towards silverware.
Dan Worrall has been an integral part of Surrey’s march toward silverware this season
The famous old club has produced an array of great teams (above: Surrey toast their 1971 title)
And Worrall, who took eight wickets in this week’s demolition of Warwickshire, says the 2023 Surrey vintage have an acute sense of the achievements of their predecessors.
‘We don’t shy away from that history,’ Worrall told Mail Sport. ‘When we won the Championship last year it was amazing and we all enjoyed it.
‘Then as soon as we came back to start the new season, we put a real emphasis on continuing our success and not being one and done. With the quality we have in the team at the moment, we’ve put a real emphasis on creating a legacy and going down in history ourselves.
‘It might sound a bit boisterous from the outside looking in but we’re really proud of the fact we have the skill, ability and determination to make it happen.’
Worrall has a big role in that. The 32-year-old made three one-day international appearances for Australia in 2016 during his time with South Australia but threw in his lot with Surrey last year and led their bowling averages with 39 wickets in nine games at 24.15 apiece.
Now he is closing in on 50 wickets this season as one of the array of pace bowlers who have propelled Surrey into a position where, with two matches to go, they lead the table by 18 points from Essex, who wrapped up victory against Middlesex on Wednesday evening.
The county’s current crop have been compared to their best sides (above: Surrey’s 2000 title)
‘It’s been amazing,’ said the man known as ‘Franky’ after a more famous Worrell with a slightly different surname. ‘The most exciting and rewarding 18 months of my career. It’s a great club to be a part of, not just the playing side of things but real camaraderie in the changing room and in how well the club looks after all the families.
‘And having the opportunity to be at Surrey has allowed me to try to give back more than they’re giving me.
‘This week’s win was close to the complete performance and it was a testament not just to the ability of our bowlers and their skill but also the relentless nature we pride ourselves on. Three of the bowlers are over 30 which really helps in staying calm at tough moments and knowing our game really well.
‘Then it’s great to have Tom Lawes, Jamie Overton and Gus Atkinson who are England players of the future and have the freedom to express themselves while us old boys steer them in the right direction. It’s a great bowling group that works really well.’
And in this ever-changing cricketing world, Worrall is convinced Surrey are homing in on what remains the biggest title of them all. ‘Four-day cricket is the pinnacle because you get tested in all different conditions over 14 games in a season and spending four days to work hard for a result is really rewarding,’ he said.
‘I can’t see that changing in the near future anyway. I’m excited to play my little part in it and see what the future holds for Surrey over the next five to 10 years.’
There is no question Surrey can continue to set the standards. And earn valid comparison with the very best sides this famous old club have produced.
COOK YET TO ANSWER MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
The wicket Josh de Caires enjoyed the most was surely that of England’s record run-scorer Sir Alastair Cook, still going strong at 38 and starring in both innings against Middlesex as Essex try to cling on to the coat-tails of Surrey at the top.
But for how long he will remain going strong is the million dollar question. Cook’s contract is up at the end of this season and he has yet to indicate whether he will sign an extension.
Cook is clearly still good enough, as fit as ever and loves the game and the county he has served so well. But he may decide the time is right to return full-time to his family farm and media work. If Cook does end his stellar career, we have two more games to enjoy him while we can.
If Sir Alastair Cook does end his stellar career, we have two more games to enjoy him
RUNS IN THE FAMILY
It takes quite something for an off-spinner to overshadow Simon Harmer – who took a five-for on Wednesday – but Josh de Caires managed it with an eight-wicket first innings haul for Middlesex against Essex, to add to his ‘seven for’ against Hampshire in June.
And that is a remarkable achievement for a 21-year-old who is primarily a batsman but has worked at his bowling to give him more opportunities at Lord’s and was only playing this week because new overseas spinner Jayant Yadav was stranded in Delhi awaiting his visa.
If he carries on like this, De Caires will be known for much more than being the son of Michael Atherton.
LEES MAY FORCE RE-THINK
It looked like England had drawn a line under Alex Lees when they left him out at the end of last summer even though he did his utmost to expand his natural game and embrace Bazball.
But it will be intriguing to see if they change their mind after his stellar season that this week saw him make his fifth hundred of the summer, against Sussex, for a Durham side running away with the Division Two title.
Durham are playing in the expansive, attacking manner Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum urged all counties to do at the start of this season to mirror the national team.
If Lees, at 30, is to have an England future, you would think he needs to be in the squad to play five Tests against India from mid-January. He couldn’t have done any more to get himself back in the frame.
It will be intriguing to see if England change their mind on Alex Lees after his stellar year
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