Surrey wins County Championship: How County Trust placed in youth to end 16-year titles

Surrey wins County Championship: How County Trust placed in youth to end 16-year titles
Master Surrey must go on – Stewart

Surrey's 16-year wait for County Championship fame is over – a wait that seemed unlikely after the previous title win in 2002.

This was Surrey's third title in four seasons, and a squad led by Adam Hollioake seemed to be up for many more four-day trophies in the coming years.

But the Lord's Taverners' Trophy has since been on a tour of the country and has even rocked in mid-2016 again north of the Thames.

Sometimes great names and great personalities came to Surrey to recapture this title. A few were put off in the process after they failed to deliver.

This season there were only a few mistakes in the so far undefeated 2018 season. Surrey finished the championship with two games.

Some established names of the county and international game are in their ranks, but a crop of up and coming, exciting teenagers also looks to deliver more success.

Waiting to recover the trophy

Morne Morkel and Rikki Clarke begin the title celebrations for Surrey in Worcester

"It was too long," said Surrey Director of Cricket Alec Stewart to BBC Sport. "But there was a lot of work on and off the field to bring us here.

"We have to enjoy it, but we want more of it."

Chief Executive Richard Gould has highlighted the importance of recruiting players for the award of this title.

"It was nice to see that so many of our young players who came through the system are an important part of that, along with some more experienced world-class minds who lead them along the way," he said.

Gould moved from Somerset to The Oval in March 2011, but the remodeling process had begun earlier.

"I remember 2003 was a very transitional period," recalls Mark Church of BBC Radio London, who gave ball-by-ball commentary on Surrey this season.

"It was the generation of Adam Hollioake, Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Mark Butcher at the end of their careers.

"If there is a group of players moving on at the same time, it is very difficult to replace them."

Australian Steve Rixon attempted to rebuild, but Surrey was defeated by the then holders of Ireland during his term in the C & G Trophy when the Trophy Cabinet began collecting cobwebs.

Rixon was followed by former player Chris Adams, who oversaw the successes in the one-day cricket and the rise back from the second division of the championship.

Surrey won her third title in four seasons as they lifted the County Championship in 2002

Adams also helped to engage players like future club captain Gareth Batty, who was considered key to shaping the current Surrey wardrobe mentality.

However, Adams' leadership was marked by the death of batsman Tom Maynard in June 2012, which led to then captain Rory Hamilton-Brown leaving the club.

Adams and assistant coach Ian Salisbury were fired in the middle of the following summer, with club legend Stewart and bowling coach Stuart Barnes taking over.

Stewart's move from Managing Director to Cricket Director apparently began a shift in trusting youth over the experience.

Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting, Kevin Pietersen, Hashim Amla, Gary Keedy and Vikram Solanki had all previously been made to succeed in the short term.

But when former South African national coach Graham Ford arrived in October 2013, they saw a number of promising junior players in the academy.

"Ford's attitude was, let's play them, it could hurt for a while, but let's give them a chance," Church said.

"This was a group that included Rory Burns, Arun Harinath, Zafar Ansari and the Curran brothers, and Gareth Batty, captain, took it by the neck and laid the groundwork for what was to come."

Ford moved on in 2016 and handed over the reins to Michael Di Venuto, who along with Stewart recruited players like Mark Stoneman, Scott Borthwick and the returning Rikki Clarke, a part of this successful squad in 2002.

Sam Curran, Ollie Pope, Ryan Patel and Amar Virdi have all come through Surrey's Academy to become important members of the first team

Sri Lankan wicketkeeper batsman Kumar Sangakkarra also arrived overseas to not only add considerable weight to runs through his own efforts, but also to become a mentor to younger players.

"This title was a process in the last few years before I arrived," said Di Venuto BBC Radio London. "Graham Ford worked with the guys to win Division Two, and in a way I was lucky to get in at that time.

"There are extraordinary young talents in this group, and what I saw was that they needed some experienced heads and winners in their vicinity."

As Gareth Townsend, the Academy director was considered on the grounds that Stewart had praised especially.

"He did a great job finishing up after the training," he said.

"Michael and I've always wanted to get her at a young age, speed up her learning speed so that she becomes part of an established group of players at a much younger age."

Captain Burns relies on England's bow

Burns has surpassed 1,000 County Championship Runs for five seasons in a row.

This September, the 28-year-old not only wants to end the silver-raising season, but also a boarding pass for England's trip to Sri Lanka in October and November.

"He's 100% the right man," said Stewart BBC Sport. "It should not even be a discussion, he should now be included in the squad.

"I trust the selectors to make the right decision and Rory has been doing it for four years now and has achieved a lot when it comes down to it.

"He learns fast and therefore has the right to play, and I think he can establish himself technically and mentally at the highest level."

Rory Burns has beaten four County Championship centuries this season

"He's captaining from scratch," Church said. "He captained an England Lions in a tour match against India A in July and finally had a chance to show English management what it's all about.

"He has more than a hundred spectators since then, he's a good player who plays hard in Sri Lanka, but England will get a guy in shape."

With two championship laps, Burns has already scored 1,241 runs with an impressive average of 68.94.

Di Venuto added: "He had an absolutely outstanding season and hopefully he will soon be rewarded with international accolades."

Can this title begin a new Surrey dynasty?

While the title win in 2002 may not have resulted in a dynasty with more trophies in the following years, there are signs that Surrey may become the team beating in four-day cricket.

"The challenge is, can we win again next year?" Stewart said. "There is a nice group of players and with hard work and the quality of the group we have here, we can do it.

"Words are easy, we have to make sure we make it on the field."

Ollie Pope made his test debut against India in August and could be on tour to Sri Lanka

New faces are already on the way to The Oval in Liam Plunkett and Jordan Clark of Yorkshire and Lancashire, seemingly ready to kick in for this crop of England internationals.

"I think they planned very well ahead," Church said. "It was very clever and smart and looked like three or four years later.

"People can not go on forever, even though Rikki Clarke is a bit like Benjamin Button, he gets better the older he gets, but he will not be there before his eighties.

"Morne Morkel will still be there, the signing was a stroke of genius and everyone knows what he brings to the party.

"In addition, there are people like Will Jacks, Ryan Patel and Amar Virdi who have all come through the Academy and established themselves.

"Everything is there so they can do their best to stay at the top."

Morne Morkel, Rikki Clarke and Tom and Sam Curran have been very successful for Surrey this season

The evergreen Clarke admits that the title win in 2018 will be "long remembered".

"I've been with Surrey since I was nine years old," said BBC Radio London rookie. "It's something I never thought would happen that I come back to the county.

"Knowing that I'm about to finish my career in this great club means a lot to me, and in 2002 we had an incredible lineup of stars all over the club, and I think we have that again.

"Michael Di Venuto and Alec Stewart have really pushed the youngsters, but those who are through have really earned their seats, they have not given them on a plate.

"There are people who play for England who are good and potentially more, who in the future and this ethos is great."

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