History

A brief history of Surrey

Martin Williamson

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Formed 1845
First-class debut 1864
Admitted to Championship1890
County Championship 1890, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1895, 1899, 1914, 1950 (shared), 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1971, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006 (Div Two)
Gillette/NatWest/C&G 1982
Benson & Hedges 1974, 1997, 2001
Sunday League 1996, 2000 (Div Two), 2003
Twenty20 2003

Whatever Surrey achieve in the future, it is hard to imagine that they will ever match their feat of winning seven successive Championship titles between 1952 and 1958. Under Stuart Surridge for five years and then Peter May for the last two, the county dominated the domestic scene in an unprecedented fashion.

Surrey are one of the oldest counties. Formed in 1845 when The Oval opened in Kennington, Surrey, the county side was popular from the start and as cricket exploded as a national past-time, Surrey reaped the benefits, and The Oval became one of the top venues.

Between 1887 and 1895 Surrey enjoyed their first heyday, winning the Championship eight years out of ten, sharing it in 1889 and only missing out once. The inspiration then was John Shuter, and he was ably assisted by Bobby Abel, Tom Hayward, George Lohmann, Bill Lockwood and Tom Richardson.

Between 1900 and 1913, no Surrey captain lasted more than two years as form slipped. After the golden age, despite fielding some legendary players, Surrey only won the title once (although they shared it in 1950), but they were often there or thereabouts. Their success in the curtailed 1914 season was overshadowed by the onset of war, but it was the only title won by Jack Hobbs. Hobbs, who scored 199 hundreds, scored 61,237 runs and passed 1000 runs in a season on 26 occasions and 2000 no fewer than 16 times.

In 1915, Lord Roseberry sought and got permission for Surrey CCC to use the Prince of Wales feathers for the club badge. In between the wars they had two inspiration leaders without any success, although they were never outside the top four between 1919 and 1925. Percy Fender led them between 1920 and 1931 and he was succeeded by Douglas Jardine. Surrey's ambitions were hardly helped by pitches which bordered on the pluperfect, making the fast-bowling achievements of Alf Gover all the more remarkable.

After the war Surrey took a couple of seasons to get up and running, but they dominated the 1950s, never finishing out side the top two in 12 successive summers. Alec Bedser and Peter Loader dominated the quick bowling while Jim Laker and Tony Lock spun the county to glory. The batting wasn't bad either, with Laurie Fishlock, Jack Parker, David Fletcher, Tom Clark, and Bernard Constable, while Ken Barrington and May emerged during the period.

While Micky Stewart led with passion in the 1960s, only fleeting one-day success was forthcoming, but in 1971 he capped his time in charge by landing another Championship title. This was all against a backdrop of uncertainty over The Oval's future, with perennial threats as the county lurched from financial crisis to crisis.

After losses in three one-day finals between 1979 and 1981, Roger Knight led them to a NatWest Trophy triumph in 1982, and Sylvester Clarke and Robin Jackman formed a potent bowling team. Off the field, in 1983 redevelopment started with the Barrington stand, signalling a new era for the old ground even though there were again questions over its future at the end of the 80s.

On the field, Surrey were a powerful side through the 1980s and 90s but there was little to show for it until 1996 when they won the Sunday League. Other trophies followed, and in 1999 they secured the Championship, following with two more in the next three summers. The side assembled then was strong, combining home-grown talent with top players lured from other counties and high-profile overseas names, leading to them being labelled the Manchester United of cricket.

But at the very time they were doing so well, the financial realities of their ambition hit home and some serious belt-tightening resulted in them being relegated from the top flight in 2005.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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