Victory over Worcestershire crowned Surrey champions after a 16-year wait
Surrey sealed a first County Championship title for 16 years with a tense three- wicket win over Worcestershire at Blackfinch New Road.
Openers Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman laid the foundations with a century stand but the bottom county made the visitors fight all the way before victory was clinched 20 minutes before tea.
Seven home-grown products were part of the side which clinched a ninth successive Championship victory for the visitors, while another – Sam Curran – was voted England’s man of the series in the Test triumph over India.
The last time Surrey put together such a sequence of victories in first class cricket was in 1999, when on the way to the first of three titles in four years under Adam Hollioake.
The Championship pennant has eluded Surrey since 2002 when one of the current side – Rikki Clarke – was part of the squad.
But the depth of locally produced talent – plus key overseas signings like Morne Morkel – suggest they could now go on and enjoy a similar run of success as achieved under Hollioake.
Worcestershire, who themselves fielded nine home grown players, were the last side to deny Surrey victory in south London in early May and they again fought hard in the return encounter.
But Morkel’s devastating five-wicket burst on Wednesday evening proved crucial in ensuring Surrey had to tackle a less demanding target than had looked likely for most of the third day.
It means they now face an uphill task to avoid an instant return to Division Two and will have to beat Essex at Chelmsford and visiting Yorkshire to have any hopes of survival.
Surrey resumed on 70 without loss and Stoneman and Burns looked relatively untroubled and a back foot cover drive for his 10th four by the former at Wayne Parnell’s expense took him to a 69-ball half-century – and also raised the century stand.
Burns followed his partner to fifty in the same over – from 90 deliveries and with the aid of eight fours.
It was Parnell who finally broke the partnership on 111 when he bowled Stoneman for 59.
Dillon Pennington bowled a probing spell and was rewarded when first innings century-maker Burns was bowled off his pads for 66.
Burns has had a memorable first year as club captain with four hundreds and six half-centuries and looks good for a place in England’s squad for the forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
Another of Worcestershire’s promising crop of young pace bowlers, Josh Tongue, then accounted for Elgar – also bowled – for 21.
Pope and Ben Foakes, able to bat in his accustomed position after illness meant he dropped down the order in the first innings, saw Surrey to lunch with no further alarms.
Only 62 were needed when Foakes (22) went for a top-edged pull against Parnell and fell to a fine catch by Ross Whiteley, running back from square leg.
Worcestershire continued to plug away and Will Jacks (12) holed out to extra cover off Ed Barnard.
Pope (49) was comprehensively bowled by Pennington and the same bowler dismissed Tom Curran (seven) as he gloved to Whiteley, running back from slip.
But the 36-year-old Clarke kept his nerve to see Surrey over the finishing line and there were wild scenes of celebration when Morkel turned Pennington for the winning boundary.