Collective effort key to Surrey success

Team spirit and Saqlain's sorcery have retained cricket's County Championship

All hail Surrey, who have retained the County Championship they won last season. If Adam Hollioake's team are not yet the omnipotent force of their Brylcreemed predecessors in the Fifties, who won the coveted pennant seven consecutive times, their triumph in a competition made more rigorous by last year's split into two divisions means they are clearly the best four-day side in the land.

All hail Surrey, who have retained the County Championship they won last season. If Adam Hollioake's team are not yet the omnipotent force of their Brylcreemed predecessors in the Fifties, who won the coveted pennant seven consecutive times, their triumph in a competition made more rigorous by last year's split into two divisions means they are clearly the best four-day side in the land.

In a season where central contracts have effectively removed the best dozen players from the overall equation, their success is probably a function of the amount of players they have, or have had, about the fringes of an England side. Ian Salisbury, Mark Butcher, Alex Tudor, Alistair Brown and Adam and Ben Hollioake have all played international cricket in the last four years, while Martin Bicknell perennially gets a mention whenever an England bowler goes lame.

With all but Hollioake junior making telling and consistent contributions, it has been a truly collective effort. Indeed, only Saqlain Mushtaq, their Pakistani off-spinner, can fairly be singled out for special mention, but then as England's batsmen will find out this winter, he is a very special bowler. His 66 wickets cost just 15.4 runs apiece, otherwise, the runs and wickets, the daily bread of successful sides, have been evenly shared around.

Such egalitarian means of production is rare in sport, even in team games. But despite rumours that some players are seeking to move county, spirit in the camp has been high, a testament to the skilful and maturing captaincy of Adam Hollioake, whose judgement of the line between risk and reward has become ever more canny as the season has worn on.

This year, Surrey did not taste victory until their fifth match and then only just, when they pipped Hampshire by two runs. Meanwhile, their only two losses to date, were sustained against Derbyshire and Durham, two sides about to be relegated to the second Division. Both occurred in the first six weeks of the season, when inclement weather tended to make batting a lottery and Derbyshire were docked eight points for the pitch they beat them on back in early June.

"Every game has been much more keenly fought than when I first started playing," said Hollioake, an observation that will please those at the England and Wales Cricket Board, who fought tooth and nail to get a two divisional Championship accepted. "Last year we played some sides who were clearly out of it and it was just a case of turning up and winning. But there have been far fewer games like that this time."

But if the competition has got tougher, Hollioake believes Surrey's achievements are due to a maturing work force. "The same players getting better and knowing how to win," is how he puts it.

Looking at how the bonus points have worked out - 40 from a possible 60 for batting and 41 from a possible 44 for bowling - it is obvious they have a bowling attack for all conditions and situations. Apart from staying fit, the four main bowlers, Bicknell, Tudor, Saqlain and Salisbury, have taken just over 220 wickets between them.

As well as providing important runs down the order, the opening pair of Tudor and Bicknell has combined pace and steepling bounce from one end, with accuracy and subtle movement from the other. In any other year, Tudor's form would have got him a run in the Test side and providing improvements continue to be made, his time will surely come again.

As ever, Bicknell has been consistency itself, his regular drip of wickets embellished with the occasional bout of over-indulgence. In the match against Leicestershire at Guildford, Bicknell had figures of 16 for 119.

They were the best by an England qualified bowler since that other Surrey stalwart, Jim Laker, took 19 for 90 against the Aussies at Old Trafford in 1956.

What the new ball did not claim the spin of Saqlain and Salisbury surely did. Often bowling in tandem, the pair fed off one another and dove-tailed perfectly. Of course, most English batsmen cannot play spin for toffee these days and Salisbury's true worth will be measured on this winter's tour of Pakistan, when Saqlain's sorcery is on the other side, rather than at the other end.

The batting, less consistent than the bowling, has revolved mainly around Brown, Butcher and Ian Ward, who will surely find himself West Indies bound when the England A team is announced next Monday. At the time of retaining the title, none had posted 1,000 runs for the season, but in a bowler-friendly summer there is no disgrace in that.

It was during a purple patch in the first two weeks of July that Brown lit Surrey's fuse by hitting an unbeaten 295 against Leicestershire and an undefeated 140 against Yorkshire, two teams ahead of them in the table at the time. Both matches were won by huge margins which, apart from demoralising their closest rivals, signalled the moment Surrey went top, a position that has never since been threatened.

All silver linings have dark clouds though and with the likes of Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe managing just a handful of games between them because of England duty, it should really have been the season when Ben Hollioake, a Test player two seasons ago, emerged as a cricketer of real substance.

Instead the comfort zone of playing in a side few others managed to run close once pitches dried out, means that he remains a player of promise rather than performance. In fact, as things stand, he offers little more than being Surrey's lucky mascot, and would surely be better off moving to another county. Only by seeking greater responsibility, and a leading role, will he, or anyone else, discover the true extent of his talent.

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower