Character beginning to show for back-to-form Surrey

With improving results, Surrey go into a busy period at The Oval with more optimism among the members in the pavilion, reports JASON COURT

There is an autograph in the Surrey cricket museum at The Oval. It has a short statement that reads, “Nothing succeeds like character”, and it is signed JB Hobbs.

In form: Jason Roys been catching the eye with his T20 and four-day batting

In form: Jason Roys been catching the eye with his T20 and four-day batting

Character may be an overused word in modern sport, but Surrey, having lost its club captain for the second year running, have started to show plenty of it. Yesterday, the team have recorded its first away win in the county championship since September 2011 to move to third in the table second division table.

Captains do make a real difference in cricket.

So when a month into the season Gary Wilson was named as skipper and first-team wicketkeeper, there may have been the odd raise eyebrow. But Wilson skippers like he keeps – positively and vocally. Less Arnold Long, more Alec Stewart.

Surrey’s season so far reminds me of an elastic band-powered plane. Not the most thrilling prospect at first, but Graham Ford, the Surrey coach, has patiently assembled it, it has been tweaked and he’s started to wind the band up. It will either soar away or the band will snap, but either way, it will be exciting and intriguing.

In the County Championship, the side has started to find some runs. The promotion of Wilson to keeper is designed to help Steven Davies back to form. In the 10-wicket victory at Derby just completed, Davies top-scored with 124.

Hashim Amla has been drafted in as the overseas player replacement for skipper Graeme Smith, who is badly injured again, and with the return of Vikram Solanki to the middle order, Davies, and in particular Zafar Ansari, have started to flourish. Ansari is proving a real prospect, effective as a fifth bowler, and topping the county’s batting averages with an impressive 69.12; a century and 4 for 96 at Derby demonstrating his potential.

The Surrey bowling line-up was looking the stronger part of the equation this season. Despite not managing to take advantage of their first innings lead at Gloucestershire and bowl the opposition out, they still look capable of taking 20 wickets in most games. More importantly, they have bowling depth in the squad. The younger bowlers, notably Matt Dunn and Tom Curran, have looked impressive and would appear to have bright futures.

Jack Hobbs autograph

The autographed message in the Surrey cricket museum signed by Sir Jack Hobbs

Of course it is impossible to use the words “Surrey” and “character” in the same sentence without mentioning Gareth Batty. The 36-year-old took advantage of his first start of the season when he took eight wickets against Essex in their first innings and is showing no signs of giving up his place gracefully.

The T20 squad has settled to a regular 13, with a blend of experience and youth. The unit is increasing in confidence every game. Old Whitgiftian, Jason Roy, continues to excite the crowd. His 81 off just 43 balls against Sussex shows what he is capable of, and he has the potential to be the most destructive T20 county opener since the “Lordy” Ali Brown. You sense this is his breakthrough season. He also has a county championship century to his name.

The cricket comes thick and fast in June. The next fixture is the poignant T20 versus Glamorgan, where thoughts will be of the late Tom Maynard. Surrey, however, will focus on making amends for their second innings batting performance against the same opposition in the earlier championship game. They will aim to use the demolition of Sussex as a springboard in the competition.

Next stop on the county championship is rock bottom and winless Leicester. These are the games in which Surrey need to be ruthless, as the side rediscovers the winning mentality of the Hollioake era.

A “double” meeting with Hampshire rounds off June at The Oval. The Friday T20 match will be immediately followed by a county championship game. The current second division table-toppers will provide a stern test for Surrey and the games will be a good point to reflect on the progress of the team.

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