Could this season have gone realistically worse for Surrey? Just eight wins across the entire campaign, this side so glorious in the Specsavers County Championship last season reduced to a shadow of itself.
The criticism must be fair. At times, the Surrey side quite literally was a shadow of itself. In June, they had 12 senior players missing either to the treatment table or to international cricket.
Surrey built their success last season on, yes, having a very strong first team, but with plenty of capable individuals waiting in the wings who, when given their chance, shone. And while it is relatively easy to ask fringe players to step into a winning side with a core spine in place, asking those players to make up much of the spine is a far different task.
But there is still too much quality, on paper, in the Surrey side for a season to contain just eight victories. Michael di Venuto labelled defeat in their antepenultimate game at Hampshire as “embarrassing” and “some of the worst cricket I’ve ever seen.”
For a club of Surrey’s riches and stature, it was simply not good enough. A title challenge? In the end, they were two points above seventh — had two been going down, they would have teetered on the edge of relegation.
They played occasional good cricket, but by-and-large they were outplayed — and often by massive margins. All out for 88 in the first Royal London One-Day Cup match against Gloucestershire; pummelled for 226 in 15 overs against Essex in the Vitality Blast; all out for under 200 on nine occasions in the Championship.
The results are a worry, for sure, but the manner of the results is a major concern. It is difficult to believe, on this evidence, that the team cruised to Division One success last term. Major improvement is needed.
SSCC: 6th, Division One
Vitality Blast: South Group — 8th
RLODC: Runners-up; South Group — 9th
SSCC: Scott Borthwick, 705 runs
Vitality Blast: Aaron Finch, 398 runs
RLODC: Ben Foakes, 328 runs
SSCC: Morne Morkel, 44 wickets
Vitality Blast: Imran Tahir, 19 wickets
RLODC: Morne Morkel, 13 wickets
Player of the Season
Ollie Pope missed half the season through a dislocated shoulder, but he still looked a class above many of his teammates. He was the one excluded from di Venuto’s scathing assessment at The Ageas Bowl, the only of his team to score more than 49 in the match there. Pope scored two centuries — including a mammoth 221* — and averaged over 80 in the Championship. No one else to play more than one innings averaged above 38.
Will Jacks spent part of pre-season scoring a 25-ball century in a T10. It was a feat he couldn’t come close to matching during the competitive season, but hit a maiden first-class hundred and played a set of useful cameo knocks in the Blast. Surrey seemed unsure whether to use him in T20 as a Jason Roy replacement at the top of the order or as a finisher, but the 20-year-old looks to have immense promise.
Could have done better
Is Ryan Patel a batter who bowls or a bowler who bats? In 2019, his Championship batting average was 22.46, boosted mightily by a century in the opening round, while his bowling average was 53.25. He batted at seven and eight in the One-Day Cup, everywhere in the top eight except for number five in the Championship, and eight in the Blast. All the while showing no sign of repeating his astonishing six for five against Somerset in 2018. He is only 21, so is far from the finished article, but his performances leave his role unspecified — and that’s not a good place to be.
Need to work on
Surrey will be comforted by knowing they surely cannot have such a dire 2020 for injuries, but they must discover how to adapt to having substantial absences. International cricket and The Hundred will likely take many of their better players throughout the season, so it will be an issue they have to overcome.
Left-arm spinner Daniel Moriarty has signed a two-year deal. The 20-year-old has played for South Africa U19s, MCC Young Cricketers and Surrey’s 2nd team in August and September. The squad itself still looks impressive, although Surrey are likely to reinforce with those inevitable absentees.
2019 has been a write-off for Surrey. The performances were below par, the results were below par, and it has been a sobering fall from grace from the highs of 2018. They have turned from the best red-ball side in the country last year to one of the weakest in all forms this campaign.
Season Rating: 2/10