Surrey retained their County Championship title in unusual circumstances, and not by doing anything on the field themselves, when Essex were bowled out at Northampton for below 400 and thereby failed to take sufficient batting points to overtake the leaders.
Shortly before lunch on day three, in the final round of championship matches, Essex lost their 10th wicket when Jamie Porter was bowled and they were all out for 211. Essex had to reach 400, and beat Northamptonshire, while Surrey had to lose to Hampshire, in order to win the title: but this was immediately rendered theoretical and obsolete.
Essex, resuming with four wickets down, needed a big partnership if they were to reach the magical figure and four batting points. But they lost Tom Westley, their captain, and all their other remaining run-scorers, so they never threatened to disrupt Surrey’s victory parade.
Not that it was much of a parade at a damp Southampton. Hampshire had taken a modest lead into their second innings and accumulated quietly on the third morning while events reached their climax, or anti-climax, at Wantage Road.
The actual moment of triumph occurred when Will Jacks was trotting in to bowl the fourth ball of his sixth over. Jacks, fresh from the England international against Ireland, halted in his delivery stride and raised his right arm, at 12.25pm, on hearing a telltale shout from the Surrey dressing room.
It was a very English celebration. For that was it. No triumphalism, no celebrations to disturb the flow of the match in hand. Jacks completed his over, the Surrey fielders changed ends, and nothing else except for a couple of their younger players touching hands.
This is, of course, a far different Surrey side to the Brown Caps who, arrogantly at times, bestrode the stage of English domestic cricket one decade, and two decades, ago. The tragedy of Tom Maynard’s death forced a reset: a new modesty and professionalism, which has seen the club clean its stables and become a role model, the county that many cricketers want to join, irrespective of their vast financial resources.
And it was only last year that Surrey won the title, under Rory Burns, so this 21st championship came as no great surprise. This summer they set out not to defend their title but to keep attacking until they had retained it, a different ethos.
In the past week or so Surrey’s batsmen had become defensive, first when failing to save the follow-on against lowly Northamptonshire at the Oval, then in their first innings against Hampshire, albeit on a slow pitch. Their resources were depleted with Ollie Pope a long-term injury and Jacks and Jamie Smith required by England in their one-day international series against Ireland. Then their batsmen defended, but only then.
When rain intervened again, to force an early lunch, Burns led his team from the field with his white hat raised, and Surrey were applauded by a few hundred spectators: a more appropriate reward for their outstanding collective efforts.