Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Surrey 396 (Foakes 125, Steel 71, Sibley 65, Smith 60, Barnard 5-66) beat Warwickshire 161 (Burgess 54, Roach 4-64, Worrall 3-34) and 138 (Worrall 5-25, Clark 4-26) by an innings and 97 runs
How's that for ruthless? By 10.45am on day three, Surrey had sewn up victory over Warwickshire by an innings and 97 runs. The three remaining wickets taking so little time people were still coming through the gates as the players were lining up to shake hands.
The brunt of the work had been done on day two, with 17 Warwickshire wickets meaning Tuesday's ask was a formality, which it proved to be. An eighth win of the season means Surrey will carry a lead of at least 18 points over challengers Essex into their penultimate match of the season against Northamptonshire. And with all due respect to the side bottom of Division One, it has all the makings of a repeat of 2022's season finale. Victory over Yorkshire in their penultimate game confirmed Championship glory, and history looks set to repeat itself.
An early finish was assisted by an unnecessarily early start when Dan Worrall sent down the first of 24 deliveries at 10.28am. His fifth, catching Henry Brookes' edge and flying to Jamie Overton at second slip, came at the scheduled start time of 10.30am, adding to the sense Surrey were so far ahead in this match they were making up time.
Worrall bagged a third five-wicket haul of the season in the following over from the Vauxhall End, decking one across Dan Mousley, the only batter to emerge with true credit in a dire Warwickshire second innings with a valiant 60. Jordan Clark then skittled Chris Rushworth to at least give their opponents time to enjoy the sunshine before heading back to Birmingham ahead of rush hour.
"Quite a few guys are going on holiday, so it's nice that this finishes early because they've got a 4am leave for the airport the day after the game [Thursday], which is handy," Ben Foakes said, slightly tongue-in-cheek. Surrey have the next round off, as do second-placed Essex, meaning there will be little to worry about back home. Nevertheless, it seems odd the players would have cut it so fine with flight times, though perhaps they are just used to clocking off early by now. After all, this was their fourth victory of the season notched in three days, and this one could have been done in two.
"There's still a lot of cricket and Essex are a serious side," said Foakes, whose 125, his third century of the season, helped Surrey to a surprisingly insurmountable first innings of 396. "They're probably more than likely to win their home games and they're always going to be on our tail. It's far from over."
It's an annoying quirk of the schedule that the frontrunners will only play each other once this season, which is also how it panned out with Surrey's closest challengers last summer, Hampshire. Even from afar, beyond their rain-affected draw in May, Surrey's seam against Essex's spin has been an intriguing battle of styles on their respective home patches.
As such, it was fitting both Worrall and Clark, two signings who have bedded into the club seamlessly, would finish things off and in turn find themselves both on 46 dismissals this season. Together with the returning Kemar Roach, who finished with five in the match, Rory Burns admitted captaincy has rarely been easier. His only moment of doubt came when he feared the hosts might have let Warwickshire off the hook after losing their final six batters for 53.
"I think we were expecting the pitch to get even better for batting as the game went on, over the four days, and having had to bat first after losing the toss - I certainly didn't expect what happened yesterday, but it's pretty easy for me as captain when I've got a bowling attack as good as ours," Burns said.
"It was good to have Kemar [Roach] back and Dan [Worrall] was exceptional. He's a real leader out there and a brilliant bowler with many skills. But I thought Jordan [Clark] also put in a really good performance in this match and there is a lot of excitement in this group about what is to come in the next few weeks."
For Warwickshire, such a chastening defeat requires perspective given the injuries to two first-choice batters (Rob Yates and Alex Davies), and the unavailability of Jacob Bethell and Liam Norwell. While their absences were covered, with Kraigg Brathwaite parachuting in for the final month of the season, the end result, if not the performance, had some mitigation. After staying up by the skin of their teeth on the last day of the 2022 season, they will take mid-table mediocrity.
"Dan Worrall was outstanding throughout the match and Jordan Clark too bowled extremely well but we came into this match a little bit light due to injuries and unavailability," head coach, Mark Robinson, said. "Kraigg Brathwaite only arrived [from the West Indies} the day before this game, Ed Barnard had never batted at No. 3 before and Chris Benjamin has not had that much cricket in this format recently. But none of that is an excuse because we should be better than we have been. We still should have had more quality as a team than we showed here."
By stark contrast, Surrey did not even have to put their new signing Sai Sudharsan into action despite a handful of their players away on England duty. His time will come with Jamie Smith due to play in the ODI series against Ireland at the end of September. The keeper-batter's call-up will be to rest those on their way to the World Cup, which includes the Surrey trio of Jason Roy, Sam Curran and Gus Atkinson.
Worrall, Clark complete Warwickshire hammering
Ben Foakes says Championship defence "far from over" despite eighth win of season
Surrey take 17 wickets in day to close in on victory, and Division One title
Warwickshire seven down after following on as defending champions show ruthless streak