Surrey CCC: Alec Stewart looking to sign off with hat-trick of County Championship titles


Surrey enter the new season today bidding to become the first county to make it a hat-trick of County Championship titles since Yorkshire in 1968.

But the big news on the eve of the 2024 campaign is that it will be the South Londoners’ last under director of cricket Alec Stewart. The former Surrey and England captain, who has been pulling the strings at the Oval for 11 years, says it’s time to take a step back.

Surrey start as 2-1 favourites with the bookmakers to make it three out of three.

But Stewart says that even the signing of Dan Lawrence from Essex is no guarantee the Oval outfit will continue to boss the domestic four-day game.

“It’s a role I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and continue to enjoy, but in December I’ll say goodbye,” said Stewart.

“Whatever job you’re in, you always want to leave the place in better shape.

“It’s for others to judge, but we’ve certainly made progress. The word progress is the one I’ve used from day one.

“We just want to get better each day, each match, each season. That’s not just the players, but as a group.

“I think we’ve done that, and we want to carry on doing that. You also want to put your own mark on it and that’s why whoever comes in will have to assess what has worked and whether they want to change anything.

“But I’d like to think whoever it is will find things in pretty good shape, with a strong foundation to take things forward again.

“I want to stay in and around the game if possible, but that might not happen.

Surrey v Glamorgan, Vitality Blast, The Kia Oval, 27 May 2022
Picture : Keith Gillard

“I’m not someone who can pack in here and then do nothing – I would drive the wife mad. It’s what I’ve known from the age of 17, when I first played second 11 cricket for Surrey.

“If I can still stay in the game in some capacity, that’s what I’d like to do. But this job demands 100 per cent attention, and that’s the reason why I have told the club I am stepping down.”

Looking ahead to the season, Stewart believes there’s still room for improvement: “The County Championship is still, for me, the pinnacle.

“The fact we’ve won it back-to-back – can we make it three in three? That’s what we’re going for. The champions are always seen as the side to beat.

“Have we got the skill-sets and can we up our game enough? I thought we were good last year, but I didn’t think we were great.

“We had great moments but, over the whole summer, we were probably better in 2022. So, even though we weren’t at full capacity last season, we still won it. If we can get back to the level we set in 2022, we’ll be there or thereabouts.

“You take nothing for granted, that’s the thing.

“We might be favourites but that means nothing. There’s enough good sides. Durham getting promoted and coming up – I think they’re going to be a tough team, subject to their England calls. Their seam attack is as good as any around, and they’ve got a good batting line-up.

“Durham will be there or thereabouts – as will Essex, Lancashire and Somerset, so it will be competitive.”

Stewart is proud of his and Surrey’s record of producing England players in recent times, but believes his contemporaries are under more pressure than ever before to win silverware.

“The target I set myself when I came into the role was to make Surrey the best county club in the country by producing our own players, through our pathway, and to produce players for England,” said Stewart.

Surrey v Hampshire LV= County Championship Division 1, The Kia Oval, 14 April 2023
Picture : Keith Gillard

“I would like to think every county shares those values, because that’s what you’re judged on. Yes, you want to win. I want to win every trophy, but I get as much enjoyment seeing an Ollie Pope, a Will Jacks or a Jamie Smith, whoever it may be, come through our system as youngsters, into the first team and then go on and play for England. That, to me, counts as success.

“Our trophy cabinet has the championship in it at the minute, but if you had another cabinet it would be full of Surrey players who have come through the pathway and then got England caps.

“But the necessity to win has, I think, got greater. We’ve seen a greater turnover of coaches and directors of cricket in the last 10 years.

“County cricket has adopted a sort of football mentality. Instead of looking at their trophy cabinet, counties also need to look at how many players they are bringing through, and are any of those players going on to play for England?

“What is success for one county might be different to what represents success for another county, but I think the game is in a good position.

“Will county cricket be the same in, say, 10 years’ time? I’d suggest not, but we’ve got to make sure county cricket stays strong and very relevant. The Hundred, whatever that’s going to look like from 2025 or 2026, will have a bearing on everything. Four competitions is too many.”

Asked if he will have a say in who succeeds him as Surrey’s director of cricket, Stewart responded: “I’ve said to the club, I will assist in any way they want, but I’m not going to tell them what to do. That wouldn’t be right.

Surrey CCC v Hampshire CCC LV= County Championships. Day Two, The Kia Oval, 30 April 2021

“There will be a full and proper process. Will I sit on the interview panel? I’d be surprised. Will they ask me what I think about their shortlist? I think they probably will. Will they listen? No idea.

“But you’ve got to understand this club. That’s the big thing. The size of Surrey, the expectation and the perception. If you’ve been in and around this place it gives you a real head-start. But if you don’t understand it, it can eat you up, whether you’re an administrator, a player, whatever it may be, because of, historically, what the club has achieved.”


Picture: Keith Gillard

The Surrey supporters’ player of the season in 2023, having been runner-up to Will Jacks in 2022. Across the last two seasons, the 33-year-old is the only England-qualified player to have scored in excess of 900 runs while taking more than 75 wickets in the County Championship.

England’s Dan Lawrence (right) during a nets session at Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Monday July 17, 2023.

Will the move to SE11 see the 26-year-old add to his 11 Test caps for England? He arrives at Surrey from Essex with County Championship winning experience, in 2017 and 2019. Averages 58 with the bat at the Oval in red-ball. His record with the ball in T20 cricket is a huge bonus.

Picture: Keith Gillard

His record of 87 championship wickets in two seasons since joining Surrey speaks for itself. Don’t be surprised if the 32-year-old seamer plays a more prominent role in the T20 Blast having impressed for London Spirit in last summer’s Hundred.

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