Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: Limited over in County Championship opener but signs Oval outfit intent on retaining crown

The weather and a sodden outfield meant just 81 overs were possible at Old Trafford, but Surrey suggested they have no intention of relinquishing their County Championship crown.

Batting coach Jim Troughton revealed this week that, despite winning back-to-back titles, the Oval outfit feel there’s still room for improvement.

If the South Londoners play to their potential and get through the summer relatively injury-free there’s no reason why a “three-peat” is out of the question.

Around the shires many agree. When the ECB polled the 18 county captains, 12 tipped Surrey for the title, with two picking Lancashire and one vote apiece going to Durham, Essex, Hampshire and Warwickshire.

“One thing we talked about this time last year was not shying away from the opportunity of going back-to-back and it’s very similar this year,” said Troughton.

“To be able to do it, three on the bounce, hasn’t been done since the 1960s. A lot of teams have gone back-to-back, but to do it again would be a great effort.

“There are some good teams in Division One, but you look at them and say: ‘If they have a couple of injuries, what’s the depth beneath that?’ Whereas we’ve got people like Gus Atkinson, who is being rested by England for the first couple of games, and there are still guys, exceptional players, who are going to have to work hard to get into the team when we’re fully loaded.

“We were very open and honest at the end of last season. We’d won the title, but we weren’t exactly on it in the last couple of games. The last two steps felt like the hardest ones to make and we were probably looking elsewhere at what Essex were doing. But it mattered to us because of the standards we want to set.”

Troughton has ruled himself out of the running to replace Alec Stewart as director of cricket at Surrey.

He said: “I enjoy doing what I’m doing right now. I love coaching. I have ambitions, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not something that’s crossed my mind.

“The DOC role is quite a unique role. Alec is the ultimate hybrid DOC, because you’ll see him in a suit when he’s going to board meetings and doing all the high-level stuff, but also, when he’s working with Ben Foakes and Jamie Smith with their wicketkeeping, he’ll be in a tracksuit.

“There are some DOCs you’ll never see in a tracksuit. I’m not sure there are many people who can do both, and that’s why Stewie is very special.”


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