They may not boast quite the same profile as their footballing equivalents but Surrey, who were once dubbed the "Manchester United of cricket", frequently manage to be the centre of attention. They are perilously close to the bottom of the Second Division, but their financial clout means they can rarely be forgotten. Yesterday they were one of three sides struggling to avoid an innings defeat, but it was the Brown Caps who were occupying minds from Edgbaston to Derby via Bristol.
At Edgbaston, Worcestershire were failing to avoid a defeat, by an innings and 18 runs, by Warwickshire. It came despite a battling 62 from the wicketkeeper Steven Davies, in a total of 271. Worcestershire have been propping up the First Division for longer than their supporters may care to remember and they will in all likelihood be relegated regardless of this dismal effort (they are 57 points behind Yorkshire, in eighth, with three games to go). What made the defeat doubly cruel, though, was that Davies is on his way to Surrey at the end of the season.
"Surrey are the biggest club in the country and I was very flattered when they made a move to sign me," Davies said. Gareth Batty, who will also be moving from Worcestershire to Surrey, clearly feels the same; Kabir Ali, too, has asked for permission to talk to other counties. These are worrying times at New Road.
Not so for Warwickshire, who can boast two England stars, in Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, and one in the making in Chris Woakes, the medium-pacer who took nine wickets in the match against Worcestershire. Victory has dragged them away from the relegation zone, where Sussex, who drew against Lancashire yesterday after a rain-ruined match, and Yorkshire – currently 269 for 2 in their second innings, 173 runs ahead of Nottinghamshire with a day to go at Trent Bridge – have most to fear. Hampshire, who are not playing this weekend, are also threatened.
Surrey were beaten by Gloucestershire yesterday, by an innings and one run at Bristol. Resuming 204 behind, they were 177 for 7 before a partnership of 72 between Chris Schofield and Alex Tudor raised hopes. Tudor, though, departed for 33, having swept a ball from Chris Taylor to Anthony Ireland on the square-leg boundary.
That brought Rangana Herath, Surrey's recently acquired overseas player, to the wicket and his 52 not out was the highlight of the day. Herath has joined until the end of the season as a slow-left armer, although he may be required to repeat these heroics with the bat, given Surrey's lamentable propensity to collapse.
What they need is a solid top-order batsman, which is presumably why rumour on the county circuit has linked them with the Kent captain, Robert Key. The Canterbury stalwart yesterday struck an unbeaten 141 to lead his side to safety against Derbyshire, after they started the day battling to avoid an innings defeat. The sides shook hands on a draw at 4pm, with Martin van Jaarsveld also having reached three figures.
Key and Van Jaarsveld have scored 10 Championship centuries between them this summer and Kent supporters were delighted when the South African signed a three-year contract in August. That said, the prospect of a return to the First Division – they are 26 points ahead of Northamptonshire in second with three games to play – has been dulled somewhat by the speculation surrounding Key.
Leicestershire know what it is like to lose talented home-grown players but they will be hoping to hold on to an impressive recent crop. The pick is James Taylor, 19, who made an unbeaten 96 yesterday in a draw with Glamorgan.