Golwalkar sends Surrey spinning down as Middlesex ensure top-flight status

Middlesex 404-5 dec Surrey 462-4
Match abandoned at 73 mins

It took Middlesex 100 minutes to break the partnership of Scott Newman and Mark Ramprakash, and claim the bonus point that secured their First Division status. Middlesex had shown no sign of panic - Surrey still needed to score a further 261 runs without losing a wicket to keep their remote hopes of salvation alive - but the relief was clearly visible when Ian Gould gave Newman out lbw.

Golwalker, Middlesex's fifth overseas player of the season, was mobbed by his team-mates when the Surrey opener missed a back-footed prod, and those supporters who had travelled from north of the river roared in approval as one of their old boys raised his finger.

Alan Butcher, who is Surrey's new coach, was talking to the media about what he hopes to achieve in the future as Newman forlornly made his way back to the players' pavilion here at the Oval. The loss of Newman's wicket did not change his appraisal of Surrey's position but it did alter the tense of his comments.

The first thing Surrey need to do is make changes to their playing staff. Their ageing squad is good enough to get them immediately out of the Second Division, but if this is attained using the same players then they are guilty of failing to address the problem.

Butcher suggested that making wholesale changes to the squad will not be easy because most of the current crop of players are on long-term contracts. Surrey are amongst the best payers in the country and at least 10 members of their staff would be earning in excess of £70,000 a season. Salaries of this size prohibit movement and it is hard to believe any of them would choose to go elsewhere at a reduced rate.

"It would be nice to get back in the First Division next year and develop one or two players along the way, but it will take two years before there can be any major changes to the playing personnel," admitted Butcher. "Going down highlights the fact that we do need to do something about the age profile of our side, and that we do need to improve the quality of our playing squad.

"We are top heavy with players in their mid-thirties age group and we do not have enough in the mid to late twenties. Therefore we have a big gap in experience. Some of the young players who look to be good enough are actually a little way off being ready to play and compete at first-team level. But if we can keep the players we have got fit, and we can get the right levels of professionalism, we do have the quality here."

Steve Rixon, who is Surrey's departing coach, also questioned the professionalism of the players, and this only serves to heighten the call for change. One can understand Butcher's reluctance to lambast players he will be working with next summer, but if old players are not performing, or setting the right example, they must go.

"I have already spoken to some of the players about their approach and they have accepted responsibility," he said diplomatically. "We need to do a lot of talking as a group. Over the last two years we have not done ourselves justice. The players have accepted this and we need to get back to the group/team ethos that we had five or six years ago.

"We need to return to a code that we are all prepared to live and play by. Some of these things have gone by the wayside in the last two or three years and we need to address them.

Mark Ramprakash is not one of the players whose future at Surrey is in doubt, and he completed the most meaningless of his 10 double hundreds against a Middlesex side that were guilty of going through less than the motions.

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