Don Topley: Surrey deserve to be County Champions, plus a perfect exit for Alastair Cook
- Credit: PA
In his latest column, Don Topley discusses the run-in to the end of the County Championship season, plus bids a fond farewell to England and Essex legend Alastair Cook.
Last week, I had the pleasure of commentating on the County Champions elect defeating the current County Champions, Essex, at Chelmsford.
Surrey are enjoying a fantastic Championship campaign, are yet to lose a four day fixture and hold a substantial lead at the top of Division One.
Surrey started this 12th Round of Championship fixtures 43 points above Somserset and I feel they are about to win the 2018 Lord’s Taverner’s Trophy which is annually presented at Buckingham Palace.
Their season has mirrored Essex’s sensational championship winning season of 2017. Essex impressively didn’t lose a four-day match and won it before the completion of the season.
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I think both Essex and their faithful fans, now realise how special last season was and how difficult it will be to replicate.
The Brown Hatters deserve their success, especially considering they play half of their fixtures at The Oval, which is regarded as the best batting wicket in England.
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Playing on the best batting wicket is good for their batsmen but it makes it more challenging for their bowlers. Where Surrey are different to Essex is that they possess a greater depth of decent bowlers than Essex did last year.
Essex relied on Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer with 70 odd wickets each, but Surrey utilise, rotate and rest a number of seamers.
Former top South African international and now Kolpak bowler Morne Morkel leads the Surrey wicketakers with 42 at under 15 runs per wicket. Veteran Rikki Clarke has 41 at 19. England internationals Tom and Sam Curran share 36 and young debutante spinner Amar Virdi has 31 wickets at 25 runs a piece. That’s a real bowling unit.
What makes Surrey’s achievement an impressive squad success is they have lost seven players to England duty (including England Lions) during the course of this summer.
Whilst the top end of Division One looks settled, the relegation battle at the bottom looks nervy, exciting and tight. Two counties will go down with the ‘yo-yoing’ Worcestershire almost confirmed as one of them.
Who joins them is intriguing. The Battle of the Roses is taking place at Headingley, with much more than bragging rights on offer.
Lancashire badly need a win having played one game more, whilst a Yorkshire win would possibly condemn their rivals on the other side of the Pennines to relagation.
You can never dismiss those perennial survivors, Hampshire. They are in the mix once again and fortunately for them, they won a significant close game at Worcestershire only last week.
Hampshire still have to play Yorkshire away and then Lancashire at Southampton in the final game of the summer – there could be a sting in the tail!
Mathematically, Essex could be relegated but they wont be as they are far too good and should finish in the top four.
Nottinghamshire have fallen away of late, due to losing the likes of internationals, Ross Taylor, Stuart Broad and Jake Ball. Should Essex beat Notts, then Notts may nervously have to look over their shoulders.
I remain totally impressed with Division One cricket, as every game is a hard fought event in contrast to Division 2 where there are some indifferent wickets and a clear split into those with aspirations of promotion and those who prioritise white ball cricket – it’s become that obvious.
A century and a 50 on his debut England game and another century and a 50 on his final England appearance twelve years later – take a bow, the brilliant Alastair Cook!
What an incredible week for England’s all-time leading batsman, full of emotion too, which isn’t what Cook is known for.
The hugely popular batsman showed his unwavering commitment, concentration and disciplines at The Oval, where he made another match-defining century and rightly enjoyed many countless standing ovations during his five days in London.
Cook had 30 family and friends witness his final international game in a private box and seemed to shed a tear when he collected a five from overthrows to notch-up his 33rd Test century and take in that long celebratory moment. The Oval was the place to be.
Well done to all the Indian players for their impressive gesture after capturing his wicket for that final time – they queued individually to shake Cook’s hand and congratulate the greatest left handed batsman.
Australia could have learned a thing or two there!