After giving Warwickshire a generous target on the final day, the inevitable has finally happened as Surrey have been beaten and therefore relegated to Division Two of the County Championship.
Two wickets last night kept us in the game, but our inability to produce the goods when opportunities arise has once again condemned us to defeat and a place in the bottom two of Division One. We could only manage 2 more wickets today, as a century from Ateeq Javid and half century from Chris Woakes meant that the hosts won the game by 6 wickets.
When Rikki Clarke played on to Tim Linley, after Stuart Meaker had earlier had Laurie Evans caught, with the score on 126-4, there was still a big chance that we could force home the victory that we needed desperately. But, as I’ve said, we failed to take any chances we’ve had. The pitch was still good to bat on today, but to only claim 2 further wickets is a poor showing, especially as a couple more would have got us into a rather long tail with Jeetan Patel at number 8.
However, that wasn’t to be and to be honest, we do deserve to go down. We haven’t been good enough when it matters this season and have had far too many disastrous sessions, which, in Division One cricket, you will struggle to get away with. The batting has failed all too often, with plenty of innings where not one batsman took on the mantle and scored big. Our bowling attack looks good on paper, but realistically in 4 day cricket it isn’t as potent as many think. Tremlett has been poor, Meaker missed most of the season due to inury, Linley has done what Linley does well but nothing too dramatic and Jade has been really inconsistent when selected.
So, where do we go from here? I will discuss this in more detail when I do an end of season review, but I might as well touch on it now. Many think that Division Two will do us good as it will allow us to play our youngsters, the likes of Sibley, Curran, Edwards, Dunn etc in an environment which doesn’t have the pressure of relegation. It will hopefully allow them to learn more about their own game, develop it and become better cricketers in the long term, rather than having that pressure constantly on their backs every time they step on the field.
I believe this squad is undoubtedly better than when we last went down in 2008, but there is a lot to be worked on. The opening partnership between Burns and Smith didn’t last long this year and Burns and Harinath personally faded away quite considerably towards the end of the year after good starts for them both. I would still stick with Burns at the top, but Harinath is one who has been given plenty of chances over the last few years, so I do wonder what will happen with him.
It was announced today that Zander de Bruyn has been released, so even though he didn’t perform this season, he needs to be replaced as well as bringing in at least two more batsmen/batting all-rounders to bolster that side of the game. That does of course come down to whether Jason Roy stays at the club. I personally would give him chance at number 5 or 6 in Division Two and allow him to learn how to play 4 day cricket, because he has the talent without question.
It was also announced today that Chris Tremlett and Gareth Batty had been given 1 and 2 year contract extensions respectively. That was a surprise to me to be honest, as both have been poor this season and I would much rather see our young bowlers be given a go ahead of them both when it comes to Division Two cricket and trying to rebuild a squad. Graeme Smith looks like he will be available for most of the 2014 season, so Batty won’t be needed as captain as much, meaning his place in the side won’t be definite anyway.
There are lots of things to discuss and as I said, I will do so more in a couple of weeks or so. But, the bottom line of it is that, despite the fight and commitment put in by the squad, we just weren’t up to the standard of Division One cricket.