Five Things We Learned In County Cricket This Week

1) Sussex are masters of the run chase

Sussex may have been gone from Division One for a year but they have certainly made quite a mark upon their return to English cricket’s upper echelons. Three wins, two draws and one defeat have made a mockery of pre-season predictions that last year’s Division Two champions would struggle upon their return. If anything Sussex have thrived upon it-boosted by the form of openers Ed Joyce and Chris Nash, the emergence of Luke Wells and bowlers Rana Naved Ul-Hasan, Amjad Khan and James Anyon who has 21 wickets already.

There’s is a typically resilient bunch, knitted together with a strong work ethic and team ethos and managed impeccably once more by Tim Robinson. Nothing has signified these factors more than their impressive mastery of the daunting run chase. First up was the two-wicket victory over Durham as they chased down 309-8 courtesy of Luke Wells’ hundred, then came a nerveless 187-1 to beat Nottinghamshire and finally their latest effort: 275-2 in the second innings to defeat Somerset.

From promotion last season to champions this time round? Why not? As Sussex have already shown they are good when it comes to the chase.

2) Somerset and Nottinghamshire have the teams to win but not the squads

The Championship’s top two last season are finding the going far tougher this time round-with Somerset currently sitting in fourth and Nottinghamshire in sixth-but worryingly both have also suffered heavy defeats and are struggling to hit their straps. The reason? Well injuries and call-ups mostly.

Somerset were missing Craig Kieswetter and James Hildreth while neither Murali Kartik or Alfonso Thomas were available as they fell to defeat against Sussex with a team containing youngsters Alex Barrow, Lewis Gregory and Craig Meschede in their middle order. Meanwhile Nottinghamshire had no Alex Hales, Samit Patel, Darren Pattinson, Luke Fletcher, Andy Carter and Neil Edwards at the last count. Taunton and Trent Bridge will start to resemble A & E wards at this rate. Both counties have the first XI to win the title, but neither has the strength in depth to cope with a raft of absentees like these.

3) Farveez Maharoof will be sorely missed by Lancashire

Farveez Maharoof has probably not been around long enough to go down as a Lancashire legend, but his role in Saturday’s epic chase has made sure that his brief time at Old Trafford will not be easily forgotten. Smashing 31 off just 19 balls to make a tricky chase manageable against your biggest rivals is one way to go about it. But this is just the latest episode in what has thus far been a remarkable season for the Sri Lankan, whose arrival at Lancashire was perhaps overshone somewhat by the signing of Ajantha Mendis by Somerset and Mohammad Yousuf by Warwickshire.

Yet the statistics themselves do Maharoof credit. His weakest suit-his batting-has shone with an innings of 102 batting at 8 against Somerset and an average of 65. His bowling has not sparkled quite so much but 8 wickets at 30 in a mainly supporting role to one of the strongest attacks in County Cricket have been important. Furthermore he has settled in quickly and proved popular with the dressing room, quite a contrast from the arrival of Daren Powell last season.

The bad news for Lancashire fans? Well sadly “The Roof” as he is known, has been rewarded for his good form with a call-up to the touring Sri Lanka team, a call-up which could potentially keep him out for a large portion of the campaign. This is a big blow in what has thus far been an almost flawless campaign for the Red Rose outfit, only time will tell just how sorely “The Roof” is missed.

4) Graham Napier deserves far more recognition

For Surrey, the sense of relief on Saturday will have been palpable. It was not so much they had been hit by a sledgehammer, but rather the cricketing tornado which was Graham Napier in full flow. The statistics of the onslaught he brought in the closing stages of Essex’s first innings make quite remarkable reading. 196 runs scored off 130 balls with 19 fours and a world-record equaling 16 sixes-drawing him level with a fellow big hitter in Andrew Symonds who struck the same number in an innings of 254* for Gloucestershire against Glamorgan in 1995. This makes it a second world record for Napier, who also took the world record for the number of sixes in T20 cricket with that innings against Sussex which first brought him to the world’s attention.

That innings brought him an IPL contract and a spot in England’s Twenty20 spot neither of which really worked out quite as he hoped thanks to a lack of opportunity and injury. Yet to describe Napier as simply a Twenty20 slogger is unfair-his hits are clean, struck with little backlift and considerable finesse. Furthermore he was striking against one of the better pace attacks on the County circuit, admittedly on one of the smaller grounds. If this was a big name like Kevin Pietersen or say perhaps Cameron White who are regularly renowned as the biggest hitters around then doubtless it would bring far greater recognition than Napier has so far had, yet as he proved on Friday he is capable of outhitting even the finest when he is in the mood.

5) Northamptonshire’s juggernaught isn’t slowing down just yet

Northamptonshire are County Cricket’s only unbeaten side, a quite remarkable achievement given the number of matches and competitions which each team play. Their success has rather slipped under the radar given that they: a) don’t contain a team packed with young English stars, b) rely heavily on a number of aging imported stars. There’s is not a tale which County Cricket will choose to promote, nor the media choose to focus on, but it deserves respect all the same.

This may well be an indian summer for their ex-international stars such as Andrew Hall, Chaminda Vaas plus steadfast county pro’s like David Sales and Mal Loye but it is testament to their ability that their standards haven’t dropped despite their aging years. So too has the form of unsung bowlers Lee Daggett and Jack Brooks who have 46 first class wickets between them at an average under 25. Given the number of games they have left to play it is unlikely they will manage the whole season undefeated, indeed if they do it will be a remarkable feat and they aren’t slowing down quite yet.

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Five Things We Learned In County Cricket

1)      Dominic Cork is the Mark Ramprakash of pace bowling

For years County Cricket has been built on three things: overseas players, young prospects and experienced pros who have been there and done it before. As financial stabilities have become threatened so the number of overseas players and aging players has decreased as County Cricket now bears a more youthful look.

Dominic Cork: As competitive as ever

Yet there are two old pro’s who have bucked the trend, one is Mark Ramprakash of 100 100’s fame, the other is the under-rated Dominic Cork.

Cork is nearly 80 days away from turning 40, he is just 21 wickets away from 1,000 first class wickets at an average of 26 and who brought up his 10,000th first class run against Yorkshire while picking up a first innings five-fer and picking up match figures of 8-126. Ok, so he hasn’t been as prolific as Ramprakash in his elder years (few could be) but he has averaged around 25 with the ball in six of his last eight seasons which is by no means disgraceful and he will probably end up with more wickets than either Andy Caddick or Darren Gough-his great rivals in the England set-up. If Ramprakash continues to remain the epitome of batting excellence as an elder statesman, surely Cork’s continued success after over 20 years in County Cricket make him very much the pace bowling equal of his former England team-mate.

2)      Ed Joyce is the form Irish batsmen

Once upon a time it was Ed Joyce who was the Irish batsmen upon whom England relied. He began in trying circumstances, flourished enough to score a century against Australia before ultimately having it end in ignominy at the 2007 World Cup. Three years in the wilderness forced Joyce to seek a return to Irish colours, embittered by the lack of opportunities provided to him by England selectors.

His World Cup form on his return to Ireland action was disappointing, but this season he has sparkled for Sussex as they continue to defy the critics in Division One.

Ed Joyce: The form of the Irish

Two centuries, two fifties and an average of nearly 60 have played a key part for Sussex so far this season as he has confirmed his status as one of the best batsmen around. Certainly he is the form Irish batsmen, quite something considering the talents of Morgan. But while it will surely be Morgan in contention for an England place this summer it is Joyce, the man who has turned his back on his adopted country, who is the form batsman from the Emerald Isle.

3)      Glamorgan are showing signs of life

It’s fair to say that this winter was no ordinary winter for Glamorgan. Captain and coach left, their best young batsman soon followed and their form batsman of the previous season found himself being told that he was not required to return. In came Alviro Petersen as captain and Matthew Mott, the former New South Wales coach, as the club’s board attempted to appease supporter unrest with some big name appointments and talk of a brave new era at the club. It’s fair to say things have not exactly started swimmingly for the captain and coach as Petersen and his team’s form has fluctuated badly with defeats against Essex and Leicestershire offset by a fighting draw against Surrey and wins against Gloucestershire and now Kent.

Yet the signs of life are growing, certainly though one would excuse Glamorgan fans from being overly optimistic as one of the longer suffering set of fans. Their bowling attack is proving potent with James Harris continuing to develop at a handy rate of knots, Will Owen and Adam Shantry taking wickets and Dean Cosker continuing to thrive as one of the country’s more underrated left-arm spinners by taking 23 wickets already on early season wickets. But their batting needs work, as they have scored just one century all season and appear to lack the bulk of runs provided for them last year by Cosgrove with Petersen struggling to strike a balance between captaincy and good batting form. Yet the fears for the club’s form in the County Championship after their winter of discontent are slowly being put to bed, as the Petersen era is finally getting up off the ground.

4)      The students can give lessons too

This was surely not the way in which Kevin Pietersen envisaged his return to first class cricket, captaining one of the few County sides who have been beaten by a University side-indeed the first at Fenners where the County team have been dismissed in the second innings since 1982. And he fell to a left-arm spinner, surely rounding off a fairly miserable match.

Granted, Pietersen apart, this was a weak Surrey XI but this was still a major coup for a Cambridgeshire side comprised entirely of students and containing only a handful of players on the books of counties including Surrey’s own Zafar Ansari and Warwickshire’s Paul Best. They didn’t just win, but they won handsomely by almost an innings as they outbowled and outbatted their County counterparts and in truth looked much the better team throughout. For once it was nice to see the students, so often the butt of plenty of cutting remarks regarding the first class status of their matches, giving County cricketers a lesson. Proof that the kid’s can be alright after all when given half a chance.

5)      Controversy will always overshadow class

I’m not going to debate the faults of modern journalism, there’s just no point. Salacious incidents and controversies nowadays will forever generate the headlines and overshadow the more mundane, and yet perhaps worthwhile stories which accompany them. It’s the modern media for you. Yet it still seems a shame when moments of inimitable class can get overshadowed by controversy and it happens all too often.

A Mohammad Yousuf masterclass gets overshadowed

Take this weekend’s match between Warwickshire and Worcestershire for example. This game will always be remembered for the wrong reasons: Worcestershire losing three men to injury, the ECB pitch inspectors declaring the pitch unfit and Warwickshire being punished for it. Yet along the way there were some rare moments of class amidst a pitch which played almost like a minefield. Take for instance the first innings hundred and second innings half century by Mohammad Yousuf, an innings which stuck out like a sore thumb and confirmed that despite his advancing years, his touch of class still remains. Think also of 20-yeard old Chris Metters, who on debut took 6-65 in his first ever Championship match. These are moments where class deserves due acclaim, and yet they find it overshadowed by controversy, as is all too often the case.

James Taylor: New Star, Different Spectrum

These days batsmen don’t so much announce themselves on the big stage as explode. Young batsmen breaking into the game find themselves discovered as much by the boundaries they hit than anything else. The faster they score, the more valuable they become and in an era becoming increasingly dominated by Twenty20 cricket they become virtuals stars overnight.

Thus the traditionalists fear that the next generation will be the Twenty20 one, almost a cricketing version of Generation X. One of unruly technique, ill-discipline and an unhealthy diet of boundaries and across the line slogs.

Australia fans must look on with fear as the country which once had a batting tradition which brought Greg Chappell, Donald Bradman and Victor Trumper to prominence has Dave Warner and Aaron Finch touted as their future. Nowadays a young player will be judged not on the runs he scores, but the strike rate in which he scores them in.

David Warner: The next Australian generation

But there was a welcome fillip for the traditionalists on Friday afternoon. On the face of it a batsmen scoring 52 runs off 145 balls is nothing worth shouting about-52 runs in longer than a Twenty20 game is nothing worth shouting about. Yet sometimes cricket is more than just the raw statistics.

Sure if I told you that the score of 52 was the top score in a total of 207 with Extras running a close second, then you’d probably be a bit kinder but it wasn’t even that. It was the context of the situation that defined this as something really special.

It was a lively pitch with four pace bowlers all offering plenty, one tall bowler, one rapid one, one experienced one and one canny one. The batsman took it all on, got beaten plenty of times, got hit far too many times. Yet still he carried on, he got cracked on the helmet, cracked on the gloves yet still he refused to give in. He hit attacked when he needed to, hooking two sixes, but still sought first to protect his wicket simply just to survive.

Taylor's toughest test

That batsman was James Taylor, and it was an innings which was probably his biggest test so far and one he passed with flying colours. You see everyone knows Taylor can score runs and plenty of them. He has two double hundreds at the age of 21, eight in total and a first-class average of nearly 50. He can even do well in the T20 stuff-average 32, s/r 120.

But this was something else. This was a time where scoring runs was tough, which would test a perceived weakness against top class pace bowling. Proving that you can score runs when no-one else can is the mark of a special player. Scoring runs when everyone else can is easy, doing it when no-one else can is the real challenge.

That’s why this innings, this 52 off 145 balls (s/r 35 incidentally), scored in a losing cause was important. Because ultimately it showed that when everyone else found it tough, Taylor could manage to tough it out and kept his wicket, kept his head and kept on scoring. How many Twenty20 batsmen, bred on flat pitches, big bats and short boundaries can say they have been tested like that? One can scarcely imagine how a Warner or Finch would fare.

An innings like that is the mark of a potential Test batsmen, the sort England will eventually come to rely on time and time again. It was a breakthrough innings but of a whole different spectrum to those of most modern players. Batting like that may not make him a Twenty20 millionaire, but the potential rewards for Taylor could ultimately be all the more worthwhile.

The County Cricket Five-Fer: Round Two

Five Things We Learned From The County Championship

1) Graham Onions will play for England again sooner rather than later

England’s successful last 18 months have created their own fair share of victors and victims. But few can have been more of a victim of England’s success than Graham Onions who was surely the forgotten man of English cricket.

When he stonewalled South Africa to ensure England got a draw from the 4th Test which gave them a fair chance of securing a series victory his place appeared beyond all reasonable doubt, especially given that he had enjoyed a fine series with the ball too.

Yet history tells us differently. Onions was dropped for the very next match for Ryan Sidebottom, England lost and drew the series and the Durham man was to suffer a terrible injury to his back which prevented him from bowling for almost a year.

During that time England have gone on and conquered all while discovering the talents of Steven Finn along the way plus enjoying the pleasant double surprise of Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett’s impact at Test level over the Winter. Pace bowling places in this England team are now contested more fiercely possibly than at any stage previously.

As if hes never been away

But don’t rule out Onions making a return to the Test arena. Because he is back, and judging by his performance against Yorkshire then it’s like he’s never been away. Pace, bounce and that devilish late movement gave him a five-wicket haul on his first game back and helped set up Durham’s victory.

He already looks a class above the County Championship which is remarkable given the length of time he has spent out injured. A good sign for England perhaps, and if he continues to kick on then don’t rule out a return sooner rather than later.

2) England’s pace bowling cup runneth over

While Onions was running in to destroy Yorkshire’s top and middle order, there were familiar tales elsewhere across the County Championship.

At Cardiff it was James Harris laying waste to Gloucestershire with 5-39, Nathan Buck took 4-112 for Leicestershire against Derbyshire, 17-year old Reece Topley destroyed Middlesex at Lords only for Steven Finn to do the same to Essex twice and Chris Woakes took match figures of 9-101 as favourites Somerset were thrashed by an epic margin at Taunton.

Reece Topley: One of the new brigade

Five pace bowlers, all under the age of 23, playing pivotal roles in their side’s County Championship matches are the stuff which Andy Flower’s dreams are surely made of. With the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett set to return then batting in the Championship could be a nightmare.

But for England the long-term prospect in the bowling department are healthier than ever. Flower has long talked about building up England’s strength in depth to enable weary players to be rested. Such developments will allow him to do just that because on the evidence of the County Championship so far England are spoiled for choice in the seam bowling department.

3) Jonathan Bairstow will get the century monkey off his back

Sometimes the monkey on someone’s back is hard to get away. For instance it took Ian Bell to his 10th Test century before he scored one without a team-mate scoring one. But as Jonathan Bairstow was edging ever closer to that elusive first Championship hundred doubtless there were more than just Yorkshire fans willing him onto that mark.

Sadly Bairstow fell for 81 as he edged leg-spinner Scott Borthwick to slip to become the seventh wicket to fall as Yorkshire eventually succumbed to defeat. He now has 16 first class 50s but has yet to reach the magical three figures mark. But don’t doubt that he will get there because he certainly will.

Too good not to ton up

For all the concern over Bairstow’s ability to convert starts into substantial scores, spend time watching him bat and you see a young player of great promise and such concerns tend to wash away. His capacity for playing innings of note in difficult circumstances was apparent from his debut when he top scored in the second innings on debut.

One particular instance was an unbeaten knock of 63 off 51 balls to see his side home in a key clash with Nottinghamshire at the back end of last year-an innings of real character. Yesterday’s innings came in trying circumstances with his side slipping to 158-6 before Bairstow and Pyrah managed to drag them to 225-6 which ultimately was not enough.

Sure he hasn’t got that elusive first hundred, but his ability to grind out scores of note when it really matters is the one which counts most. When he scores his first hundred, which he most certainly will sooner rather than later, don’t doubt it’ll be the first of many.

4) Paul Grayson might not have wanted an overseas players but Essex badly need one

“It’s been a complete nightmare. If it was up to me I don’t think I’d have any overseas players for championship cricket anymore, it’s just been so difficult.”

So said Paul Grayson after his club were unable to agree terms with Peter Siddle to be the club’s overseas player for this season. They would subsequently be unable to secure terms with Tim Southee before finally agreeing to sign Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

Yet his side could arguably have done with a decent overseas batsmen judging by their early season batting collapses. Batting cards this season reading innings of 201 and 227 against Kent and 115 and 215 against Middlesex speak volumes for the problems in their batting line-up. Though the subsequent arrivals of Owais Shah and Ryan Ten Doeschate after IPL duty ought to help matters they will be offset by the departures of Alistair Cook and probably Ravi Bopara once England duty resumes.

In their place the onus falls on young batsmen Tom Westley, Billy Godleman and Jaik Mickleburgh and the experienced James Foster and Matt Walker to cope. It is hardly a recipe for success and the departure of the experienced Zimbabwean Grant Flower at the end of last season is clearly having an impact. Though the arrival of Tsotsobe will clearly be a boost for the club, a batsman rather than a bowler would have been vital.

5) Who will win Division Two is anyone’s guess

Seven of the nine Counties in Division Two have recorded one victory so far this season with only Essex and Surrey, who have played one game less, yet to get off the mark though Surrey admittedly almost pushed leaders Northants close in their first match.

Certainly this division promises to be a wide open contest. Surrey were initially tipped as the favourites for the division though their lack of a top class spinner could potentially count against them. Northants have experience in the likes of Andrew Hall and Chaminda Vaas but little strength in depth.

Derbyshire and Glamorgan are both rebuilding under new captains, Kent have a decent blend of experience and youth while Leicestershire’s young side captained by Matthew Hoggard are perhaps a little too green for promotion despite boasting in James Taylor and Nathan Buck two of England’s finest prospects.

Certainly compared with last season when Sussex steamrollered the division to romp home with the title by a fair margin there are few outstanding candidates. Ultimately this is the Division which could be one by anyone. All the teams have strengths and weaknesses which may dilute the quality of the cricket somewhat but makes the quality of the spectacle all the better.

County Corner: Is Captaincy in County Cricket Becoming an Impossible Job?

Failure to build on success cost Pettini the Essex captaincy

Captaincy in cricket even to this day remains the central and focal point of any cricket team. As Mike Brearley wrote in his book The Art of Captaincy:

“With a good captain a company, orchestra, any group, can be made to work – a good leader who makes them the best they can be under the circumstances they find themselves in.”

While England have begun to reap the rewards of Andrew Strauss’ steady hand, in County Cricket-where captain’s have traditionally been left alone-a new tradition of hiring and firing captain’s with ever-increasing haste has begun.

The latest who has seen the axe fall is Essex’s Mark Pettini, who after handing over the reigns as T20 captain to James Foster last month, has now given the captaincy in all formats to the wicketkeeper.

“I felt it was time for me to step down as Essex captain,” he told the club website. “We suffered a poor start to the Friends Provident t20 campaign and I wanted to be able to focus on my own game. I got to the point that I was exhausted and I was under pressure with my batting.”

Pettini follows Shaun Udal, Will Smith and Nicky Boje who have already given up the full captaincy this season, and the likes of Chris Read, Nic Pothas and Chris Rogers who have given up captaining T20 matches.

His reasons are understandable given a poor run of form with the bat, but the statement of his exhaustion perhaps gives an illustration about the all-consuming need to win which is now beginning to cost these captain’s their job.

As Shaun Udal told the Daily Mail after he resigned: ‘It’s a results-led business and the captaincy is an all-consuming role.

“I thought I would be able to handle it, but it affected my form. There is so much cricket these days that you never get a day off and when you do, the phone doesn’t stop ringing. You take the job home with you.”

Certainly the need to win-which is now beginning to permeate County Cricket at all levels-and in particular the bigger counties such as Middlesex and Surrey is beginning to pressure captain’s who feel the need to step down.

How captain’s cope with this pressure is crucial, though given the sheer volume of cricket it is perhaps understandable if there are problems with pressure.

It is perhaps telling that County Cricket’s finest captains-Michael Yardy at Sussex, Rob Key at Kent and Chris Read at Nottinghamshire all have experience of International Cricket-a higher level of pressure.

Key to victory - The Kent captain remains an honourable exception

Yet these are the exceptions that were once the norm and there are few signs that captains are being given a real chance to either stay the course, or learn from their mistakes.

Surrey-a club who are in the process of a long and costly reboot after years of stagnation-took the bold step of appointing Rory Hamilton-Brown, a 22 year old, as captain.

It was a big step, which has thus far reaped mixed results, and Surrey and Hamilton-Brown have had some difficult moments-not least after being booed twice in a row by the crowds at the Oval.

Yet it is a bold move, and a brave one, and one which may ultimately prove the making of both Hamilton-Brown and this new emerging Surrey team.

But as Mark Ramprakash, as good a man as anyone to provide a sense of perspective, said: “If Surrey finish bottom it doesn’t necessarily mean Rory is a bad captain and if they finish top it doesn’t make him a good one.”

“On paper it can look very rosy but it is completely unknown. You can’t get away from the fact that he is only 22 and has played only seven matches.”

Worthy of praise and patience

Such sentiments (and patience) seem oddly misplaced in the current firestorm which is currently taking place in County Cricket, and both Surrey and Yorkshire-who appointed the 26-year old Andrew Gale as captain over the winter, deserve praise for opting to swim against the tide.

Because while in cricket captains remain as important as ever, as the reigns of Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Strauss over their countries prove absolutely, in County Cricket the job of captaincy is fast becoming an impossible one.

Surrey CCC find long-term changes mean short-term struggles

Far from resembling the Manchester United of the county game, Surrey CCC currently play more like the Macclesfield Town of it.

It has been two years since Chris Adams took over the club promising to engineer a revival to those days when Surrey ruled the county game, yet in that time despite a root and branch, and highly expensive, overhaul of playing personnel Surrey fans have witnessed only two wins in County Championship matches at that time.

Yet the dire straits which Surrey found themselves in, last night arguably represented a new low as they were booed off by their own fans at the Oval having been soundly thumped by Gloucestershire in a 20/20 clash.

It summed up the frustrations of the fans over the past years, but also spoke about the current problems with their squad.

Despite an expensive overhaul of their playing squad-including captain Rory Hamilton Brown, there is little sign of improvement-as shown by their low score of 97 yesterday.

This is a batting line-up including some quality batsmen-including a middle order of Mark Ramprakash, Younus Khan, Andrew Symonds and Usman Afzaal-all international players. Meanwhile the opening partnership of Hamilton-Brown and Steven Davies features two of the most promising youngsters in English cricket.

Meanwhile the bowling, including Andre Nel, Chris Tremlett and Gareth Batty has struggled to both maintain a level of control and take wickets throughout the season. The ever-improving Jade Dernbach has been an exception.

Amongst it all, their novice captain has understandably struggled. The pressure on him to score the requisite runs required of him for his team and also inspire a team which is struggling to put team’s under pressure.

It also puts pressure on his mentor, coach Chris Adams, who having arrived to such fanfare from Sussex has so far opted to take the long road in regenerating Surrey CCC.

Despite enlisting the help of some notable names from the club’s past, including Graham Thorpe and Alec Stewart, there have been precious signs of regeneration as Adams’ recruitment strategy and development schemes have seen little in the way of results.

While the failure of notable big names is mystifying, especially given that on paper Surrey could well be battling with the top county teams-the main cause of disgruntlement among Surrey fans, there are few signs that Adams may yet be under pressure.

As one of the county game’s richest clubs, Surrey have spent extravagantly on assembling a squad with some of the brightest names in English cricket, but such a policy has won them few friends as fans of Worcestershire and Sussex bemoaned the bully-boy tactics employed to snare the likes of Hamilton-Brown and Davies.

Yet while the club have been spending wisely, there have also been some notable PR gaffs-not least the spat with Sussex, the pursuit of the long-retired Brian Lara and not to mention the signing of a vastly under-prepared Shoaib Akhtar.

It has been a rather cumbersome two years in charge, though as Adams admitted in a pre-season interview, he said:  “Young, fresh, brave and positive, those are the keywords for the squad this season.”

Yet focussing on the long-term, as Adams seems content to, may not be enough for Surrey fans who have grown accustomed to watching their team struggle.

While the club and its staff may believe that there are signs of promise for the future, judging by the response of Surrey fans to yesterday’s latest defeat, they are becoming even harder to see.