With a youthful looking squad and at least one eye cast to the long term view, few would have backed Surrey to be LV=Insurance County Champions in 2022. So whilst pre-season ambitions were no more than realistic, a red ball championship was to count as a tremendously welcome surprise to club supporters and players alike. Particularly pleasingly, and more so than the 2018 title, this was an achievement based significantly upon youth and homegrown talent, which surely bodes well for future seasons.
Unbeaten until the championship was secured, Surrey’s win tally of eight was bettered only by Hampshire. Whilst the season-long challengers from the Ageas Bowl could rightfully express frustration that Surrey were not required to head down the M3 for a visit, its also true that the game at The Oval was a one sided affair resulting in an innings victory for the home team.
Surrey’s white ball results meanwhile were likely more in keeping with expectation, as a new blend of players sought to define their identity. Rejuvenated under the leadership of Chris Jordan, the Vitality Blast campaign ranged from the highs of a last ball win against Somerset, to being on the opposite end of the same experience at the hands of a rampant Yorkshire at the quarter final stage. Whilst the RLOC campaign provided opportunity for blooding younger talent, the results were as inconsistent as one would expect of such an inexperienced team.
Surrey’s season will be remembered for the long form of the game though, rising to the top of the table from early on, and never realistically looking likely to relinquish their lead. Steered throughout by the reassuring presence of Rory Burns, his season long availability was surely no coincidence in the club’s surge towards the title.
It also says much for the club’s red ball campaign that whilst few players obviously delivered eye catching numbers in terms of sheer volume, the breadth of contribution told the real story; whilst no single batter amassed 900 individual runs in total, no less than eleven different players contributed hundreds. In fact it was Surrey’s ability to amass more than 300 first innings runs throughout the unbeaten portion of their run to the title that then allowed Burns the freedom to unleash and rotate his enviable bowling attack with confidence. Packed with all-rounders, the bowling efforts tell a similar story to that of those wielding the bat; no one player took forty wickets, yet six contributed 17 or more dismissals in total, and seven players did so at an average under thirty.
LV= CC: 1st
Vitality Blast: QF
LV= CC: Rory Burns, 842 runs @ 40.09
Vitality Blast: Will Jacks, 449 runs @ 32.07, strike rate 142.08
RLODC: Tom Lawes, 318 runs @ 53
LV= CC: Dan Worrall, 39 wickets @ 24.15
Vitality Blast: Chris Jordan, 17 wickets @ 22.11
RLODC: Conor McKerr, 10 wickets @ 34.5
Player of the season:
Will Jacks – A Vitality Blast contribution of 449 runs at a strike rate of 142 is the sort of contribution Surrey have come to expect from Jacks. 648 red ball runs at over 50, in addition to seventeen off spinning wickets however, is not. For this was the season when Will Jacks expanded beyond the realms of white ball specialist into a multi layered contributor across competitions.
Statistics though tell only part of Jacks’ story. It is the manner in which he shouldered the burden of often being the sole long form spinner, the occasional white ball captain, and most of all for the aggressive intent of his batting, that his performances have landed him firmly onto England’s radar. His rapid fire 150 against Essex, including the demolition of Simon Harmer, will live long in the memory.
Jamie Overton – On the eve of the current season, its fair to say that Jamie Overton had yet to set South London alight. Well known in particular in Somerset and across the broader county circuit, the younger Overton twin was broadly recognised as being a faster bowler than brother Craig, yet one also frustratingly prone to angling deliveries down the leg side. One pre-season with bowling coach Azhar Mahmood and a shortened run-up later however, and Overton junior (by three minutes) was a transformed proposition in 2022.
Despite missing part of the season through injury, his 34 wickets at twenty five were eye catching enough on paper. Yet it was to those who witnessed his efforts at first hand upon whom most impression was made. A combination of pace, bounce and swing (witness the yorker to dismiss Northants’ Saif Zaib) often made the difference as Surrey required penetration at key moments throughout the season. With England’s genuine fast bowling stocks so severely hampered by injury, it was little wonder that Jamie was called up for a Test debut against New Zealand then; yet it pays to remember just how far away such a proposition seemed at the beginning of the year.
Could have done better:
Amar Virdi – its impossible to do better when you don’t get to play a game for your county of course, but a season long absence must have been a difficult pill to swallow for the spinner who was in India as part of the England touring party just eighteen months ago. Few would have predicted that a campaign overseen by the recently retired Gareth Batty would yield just one appearance between spin twins Virdi and his left arm counterpart Dan Moriarty. Both are too good to be kicking their heals for much longer, and will surely be seeking reassurances as to their future.
Need to work on
It seems more than likely that Ben Foakes will have earned himself a central contract after his stellar contribution to England’s Test team. The result will likely increase opportunity for Jamie Smith who, double century against Gloucestershire apart, was slightly starved of game time this year.
Short term hires Gareth Batty and Azhar Mahmood surely need to be made permanent appointments after this season’s success too.
The return to Surrey of Dom Sibley for 2023 would seemingly indicate that the evergreen Hashim Amla’s time at The Oval has come to an end. With Ryan Patel likely to drop back to number three in the batting order, it will be interesting to observe to what extent the absence of the calming presence of Amla has on an otherwise youthful top order. Nevertheless, Surrey will remain broadly unchanged for next year, and with the benefit of a championship title under their belts, will certainly be pushing for further honours next year.
Perhaps harsh to dock a mark in a title winning season, but the club will look for an improved RLOC season next year. That aside, for sheer consistency, this represents an outstanding season.