Surrey send out warning as Tom Curran seals Warwickshire rout
Surrey 454 (Stoneman 165, Burns 71, Sangakkara 71, Wright 5-113) beat Warwickshire 91 (Footitt 6-14) and 362 (Trott 151, T Curran 4-88) by an innings and 1 run
Gareth Batty hopes Surrey's resounding opening-round victory over Warwickshire has "sent a message" to their Championship rivals.
Surrey took less than an hour to wrap up an innings victory on the fourth day, claiming 23 points in the process. It is only the second time since 2002 - the last time they won the Championship title; the other occasion was 2012 - they have won their opening Championship match of the season. By contrast, it was the first time this century Warwickshire have lost an away game against Surrey. They left London with only one point.
This was a formidable performance from Surrey. Blessed with the strength in depth to leave out players of the class of Stuart Meaker, Ravi Rampaul and Zafar Ansari (they will also be boosted by the return of Jason Roy at some stage) they proved too strong for a decent Warwickshire side in all departments. They demonstrated strong batting and wonderfully disciplined bowling and, but for a Jonathan Trott innings described as "magnificent" by Batty, would have won this match by an innings and plenty in two-and-a-half days.
This was very much a case of Surrey playing well rather than Warwickshire playing poorly. While Warwickshire would admit they erred in their decision to bowl first and then failed to utilise conditions in the first couple of hours, they were also on the receiving end of a top-class innings from Mark Stoneman and an exceptionally good spell of bowling from Mark Footitt. These are early days but Surrey are unlikely to be bothered by too many England calls (though Tom Curran has a chance of playing in the ODIs against Ireland) and must be considered strong Championship contenders.
Not that Batty was allowing himself to be carried away. Although he was on the Surrey staff in the early part of this century, he had departed for Worcestershire by the time they won the Championship in 2002 and still hankers for a winners' medal. He knows, though, that it is a long season and that tougher tests await.
"We can be better in all departments," he said. "We should have scored 600 and we should have finished the game on the third day. We missed a chance or two in the field as well. It's just one win. This is only the start.
"But yes, we're in a good place as a club. We left England players out of this team and we might again at the end of the week. I might be left out.
"We wanted to send a message and we did that. Our openers set the tone and everyone backed them up. We bowled as a pack with Footitt outstanding and everyone else supporting him really well."
While Batty was reluctant to look too far ahead, he did admit that thoughts of a Championship title were on his mind - "it would be a wonderful way for an old man to finish," he said - and suggested that both the Surrey squad and the top division in this competition were "as good as they've been".
"Yes, this is one of the best county squads I've played in," he said. "Maybe the Surrey side at the start of the century, when we had 14 internationals, was a little stronger, but we're not so short of that level now. We don't have an XI as much as a group of 20 or so.
"And yes, I've been around a while now, but in my view, we have now got the best domestic first-class cricket in the world. The cricket I have seen played in the last two or three years has been the best of my time in the game. There are some seriously good teams in this division. The cricket in this division is really tough."
This was certainly a fine advert for the Championship. While the result was hardly in doubt after the first day, there were a number of top-class performances and an outstanding, defiant innings from Trott to drag the game into the final day. While he departed shortly after completing his 19th first-class 150 - an upper-cut landing in the hands of third man - he had produced a remarkable innings on a pitch of such variable bounce that both sides reckoned chasing 100 in the fourth innings could have provide extremely demanding.
"He's still one of the best in the country," Batty said of Trott. "But it was a very good lesson for us to see how someone that good goes about his business. He was magnificent."
Tom Curran finished the match by uprooting Chris Wright's middle stump; reward for an admirably sustained spell of bowling. There are, perhaps, young bowlers who bowl more impressive deliveries over the course of a spell, but there are not many 22-year-olds who bowl so few poor ones. As part of a four-man seam attack backed by three men on the staff who have been picked to bowl spin for England in Test cricket, it is hard to think of a deeper, more balanced attack in the county game.
This was a worrying performance from Warwickshire but not a completely surprising one. The coaching team would not have been changed at the end of last season unless the management knew there were issues and it is now clear the club is at the start of what may be a painful transition. If the club is not producing players of the quality to challenge for first-team positions - and there is little evidence to suggest they are - they may need to consider recruitments. But for a club heavily in debt, that is not straightforward. Trott, to some extent, masked their failings in this game but the bowling coach Alan Richardson was spot on when he spoke of it as a "wake-up call".
"You can't afford to give a side the quality of Surrey a two-day start," the first team coach, Jim Troughton, said afterwards. "We were out-played on those first two days. We showed some character to claw our way back into it, but we had given ourselves too much to do.
"We still back this squad. We understood this team was in transition before the season. But we just can't afford to drift into games as we did here and, if someone produces a great spell like Footitt did here, you need someone to be able to stem the bleeding."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo