Ojha seals Surrey's promotion
Surrey 468 beat Derbyshire 190 and 152 by an innings and 126 runs
It's too early to say for certain, but there's an undeniable feeling in the air at The Oval that Surrey are on the brink of an exciting future after they secured promotion to Division One with a clinical innings-and-126-run victory against Derbyshire. Pragyan Ojha, the India left-arm spinner who has been so vital to their late-season pushed, took 6 for 42 as Surrey cruised home before tea on the third day.
It's the manner in which Surrey timed their promotion run that has been so impressive. They needed to win their last four matches to stand any chance and that is what the team, well led by Rory Hamilton-Brown, achieved over the closing weeks of the season. They could yet finish top of the table, but Division Two silverware is not really the main priority - just getting promoted is the challenge. Surrey, though, could yet finish the season with silverware as they play the CB40 final against Somerset on Saturday. This is a team on the rise; Stuart Meaker, Tom Maynard, Jason Roy could all play for England while Steve Davies' time may not be over.
"This is the beginning, not the end," Chris Adams, the cricket manager, said. "They are a young team and will only get better. There are startling similarities to the last great Surrey side led by Adam Hollioake - a young captain who played aggressive cricket - and we've made some terrific strides forward. However, where we sit tonight is 10th in the country. We know that, we are shouting from the rafters. We'll mostly likely finish 11th and that's fair but the journey towards No. 1 will continue.
"The potential of the dressing room is immense," he added. "The biggest challenge is keeping them together. We've already had to manage losing some players to England this year. They have proved to themselves they can win games of cricket and play an attractive brand of cricket. When they are at their best there is no one better in the country.
"If we carry momentum into next year like we've had here we'll be a match for any side in Division One. Of course we'll have to plan and prepare well. We'll need to recruit wisely, especially the overseas player."
Adams is doubtful whether that overseas player will be Ojha, who has taken 23 wickets in four Championship matches, with figures of 6 for 8 against Northamptonshire to go alongside the six here. Surrey were surprised when they were able to secure his service following a call-up to India's squad for The Oval Test.
"It's not for me to comment on India's selections but I'm amazed he's not playing Test cricket," Adams said. "I strongly believe he will play 100 Tests for India, from what I've seen. I may be hitting high, but he's a wonderful bowler with wonderful skills. I expect him in the next six months to break into the India team and be a permanent fixture."
Ojha was far too good for Derbyshire's batsmen, who were in no mood for the season to go into the final day. Ojha wrapped up the first innings with two wickets in two balls and was soon in action during the follow-on. Wayne Madsen was trapped lbw and Paul Borrington, who fought hard for 87 in the first innings, lost his off stump to one that turned. Dan Redfern was soon brilliantly caught at short leg and Luke Sutton shouldered arms.
The tail went down swinging and Gareth Batty picked up the final wicket when Mark Footitt was caught at long-off. Next stop Lord's, then the planning will start to ensure Surrey's return to the top flight is not short lived.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo