August 8, 2013

Green shoots for Surrey?

Qualification for FLt20 Finals Day is less important than avoiding Championship relegation - but hopefully one might inspire the other

So, having previously had a team of youthful power-hitting athletes that looked tailor-made for Twenty20, the team that actually got Surrey to our first Finals Day since 2006 was one with five players over 35 and a distinct lack of big hitters in the middle order. Still, by hook or by crook, we made it.

Our quarter-final win over Somerset followed the same basic formula that has served us so well in this competition, save for a blip that threatened to halt the charge. We backed our bowlers to restrict the opposition and hoped our batsmen would drag us over the line. They did. Edgbaston here we come.

It is undeniable that things look an awful lot rosier now than they did six weeks ago. But it's unfair to say that is all down to Chris Adams' departure - he largely put together the side that saw us through so some credit has to go to him for that. On the flip side, we still languish in the bottom two of the Championship and are now in an illustrious club of just two winless counties in 2013. Adams has his share of responsibility to shoulder for that as well.

But can this side's journey to Finals Day be the start of a revival in the club's fortunes? As we saw in 2011, runs to the latter stages of a limited-overs competition do sometimes coincide with an upturn in fortunes in other formats as well. Surrey need that to happen and it's all the more urgent this year, with Division One status at stake. Twenty20 success must still take a back seat to top-flight survival, but just maybe one will follow the other.

One of the mainstays of the T20 side, Azhar Mahmood, will play no part in the Championship games and another couple, Jon Lewis and Zander de Bruyn, are unlikely to be at the club next season. So to expecting this to be the start of something big is perhaps a little hopeful, but there are reasons to be cheerful.

Two men who will hopefully play a big part in Surrey's future have made their first team debuts in the YB40 last week. Opening batsman Dominic Sibley only lasted an over or so before badly cutting his knee and being stretchered off but the other, the fast bowling allrounder Tom Curran, gave a good account of himself against Essex and then promptly delivered Surrey's best List A figures for four years with 5 for 34 against Scotland.

Just as the green shoots of recovery are ever-so-gently popping up in the UK economy so too hopefully Surrey's fortunes will follow and we've got some boom times ahead. Along with Curran and Sibley we can count Zafar Ansari, Matthew Dunn and established first-teamers Rory Burns and Arun Harinath among the homegrown talent coming through. A new full-time coach will surely soon be appointed and he will bring with him fresh ideas and a fresh impetus for success too.

It's important not to get too carried away, but the positivity that comes from an impending appearance at Finals Day can only be good for the team. We might pull off the great escape yet.

Josh Green has been riding the Surrey cricket blogging rollercoaster since 2009. He tweets here