Red-ball cricket returned in June amidst the hustle and bustle of the Vitality Blast. Surrey were the early pace-setters in the competition and sat at the top of the table with four wins and 104 points – 25 points ahead of their nearest rival – when the County Championship resumed.
501-run record-breaking chase at Canterbury vs Kent
Kent 301 & 344 lost to Surrey 145 & 501/5
After an emphatic victory against Kent at The Kia Oval in the last game before the break, Surrey marked their return to the Championship by completing the double over their oldest rivals while writing new history at Canterbury.
A mammoth effort from three centurions – Dom Sibley, Ben Foakes, and Jamie Smith – conjured the miracle of Canterbury as the Three Feathers knocked down a target of 501 with relative ease to record the competition’s highest run-chase in 98 years, and the second-highest of all time.
Asked to field first, Sean Abbott (4/52) and Jordan Clark (2/40) claimed five early wickets and provided the perfect start for Surrey, reducing their hosts to 41/5 in the morning session. Kent, led by the impressive Jordan Cox (133), ferociously fought back and nudged over 300 by the end, with Joey Evison and Wes Agar also scoring half-centuries.
The hosts carried their momentum forward in the second innings and bowled Surrey over for 145, with 84 of those runs complied by the final four batters. Kent’s strong position grew stronger on day two when their first two partnerships added 147 runs, although Surrey pushed back and claimed six wickets in the final session to remain hopeful.
To dampen Surrey’s hopes the next morning, Evison (42) and Hamidullah Qadri (72) came together for a 117-run alliance, and the prospect of Surrey’s first defeat of the season increased with each run added. The hosts were ultimately all out for 344 while Clark (5/79) collected his first five-wicket haul of the season.
It took the Three Feathers 146.1 overs, spread across six sessions, to pull off the unthinkable at Canterbury, with Dom Sibley (140* off 368 balls) stunningly steering Surrey from ball one to ball 877 during what’s believed to be the slowest-ever century in the County Championship.
When Tom Latham (58) walked off the field, with the visitors on 91/2, Jamie Smith (114) proved the perfect foil to Sibley’s mighty resistance. His audacious 70-ball hundred allowed Surrey to dream before Ben Foakes (124) and Sibley combined for 207 runs – the Three Feathers’ highest partnership of the season – to all but clinch the unforgettable victory.
With their backs against the wall, Surrey had to tumble records to add 19 points to their tally and increase their lead at the top of the table.
Hard-earned Solero in hand, Dom Sibley caught up with @backandacross after an historic innings 🍦
— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) June 14, 2023
First defeat of the season vs Lancashire
Lancashire 274 & 293 won against Surrey 360 & 84
Lancashire travelled to south London to face Surrey in round eight of the Championship, the first of two rounds where the Dukes ball was to be replaced by a Kookaburra.
After three innings of riveting cricket, a collapse in the fourth innings brought Surrey their first defeat of the season and what was their first reverse in 19 first-class matches at The Kia Oval, a run that began in August 2020.
No stranger to bowling with a red Kookaburra, with nearly 200 Sheffield Shield wickets for New South Wales in his back pocket, Sean Abbott (4/71) breached Lancashire’s top order and Jordan Clark (4/47) took care of their tail, but several cameos helped the Red Rose to a competitive 274 all out.
The visitors made a fantastic start with the ball and reduced Surrey to 27/3 before middle-order runs from Jamie Smith (48), Will Jacks (64), and the returning Sam Curran (52), tried to keep Surrey in the contest. At 230/9, the odds of overtaking Lancashire’s total were not in Three Feathers’ favour but a mind-blowing, and equally enthralling, partnership of 130 runs between Abbott (87*) and Dan Worrall (51) gave the hosts an unlikely 86-run lead.
Similar to the first innings, a collective effort from the batters – spearheaded by Will Williams (61) and Salt (54) – took Lancashire to 293 all out, meaning Surrey had to chase 208 runs in the fourth innings. Dan Worrall (3/69) proved to be the pick of the bowlers for Surrey.
In an outstanding display of seam and swing, the Red Rose’s new-ball pairing of Tom Bailey (5/48) and Williams (4/23) made sublime use of heavy overhead conditions at the end of day three and the start of day four, bundling Surrey out for just 84 runs.
A high-scoring draw at home vs Nottinghamshire
Surrey 355 & 340 drew with Nottinghamshire 399 & 118/1
Nottinghamshire were next to visit south London and The Kia Oval, with Surrey hoping to bounce back after the loss against Lancashire.
There were runs on offer throughout the second – and last – round to be played with a Kookaburra, but the teams ran out of time by the end, compelling Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed to shake hands and settle for a draw.
Inserted to bat, Dom Sibley and Tom Latham were zoning in on the first morning before three consecutive wickets on the cusp of lunch left Surrey in a precarious place. A 60-run stand between Will Jacks (35) and Ben Foakes (46) offered assurance before the magnificence of Jordan Clark (107), well supported by Sean Abbott (48) and Jamie Overton (30*), ensured Surrey collected three batting points and finished on 355 all out.
Jordan Clark’s vital contribution wasn’t an isolated incident in a season of big performances from one of Surrey’s red-ball mainstays, and Clark would go on to win the Men’s Player of the Year award for his impact with the bat and the ball throughout the season.
New Zealand international Will Young’s elegant innings of 145 served as the backbone of Notts’ reply of 399, while skipper Hameed and Lydon James – who had claimed an impressive six-wicket-haul earlier – also scored half-centuries. Surrey’s five-man pace attack, and Will Jacks, toiled hard but could not locate cracks in the visitors’ batting order.
Solid fifties from Sibley (83), Latham (60), Jacks (60), and Tom Lawes (55) swayed Surrey towards safety on a flat deck as they pushed to 340 all out, asking Notts to chase 297 from 52 overs. Brett Hutton – the eventual highest wicket-taker in Division One – was the visitors’ standout bowler in the second innings and got rewarded with his fifth five-for of the season.
Although Notts moved to 118/1 in the final innings, Surrey had kept the lid on Notts’ run rate and sniffed out chances of any outcome other than the two captains shaking hands.
A crucial, comprehensive win at Lord’s vs Middlesex
Surrey 433 & 78/2 won against Middlesex 238 & (f/o) 272
With Essex winning three games on the trot and Surrey having dropped points, the gap between the top two was down to 13 points, and the pressure on the leaders was building.
Against that backdrop, Surrey headed north across the river to take on Middlesex in search of their first red-ball win over their neighbours at Lord’s in 26 years, but more importantly, their first in three matches.
Rory Burns, navigating testing periods of bowling from Ethan Bamber and Tom Helm (6/110), embraced the responsibility on the first morning. The left-hander’s fluent 79 set the stage beautifully for Jamie Smith (138) to express himself and register his second century of the season before Jordan Clark (78), continuing his terrific form, bolstered Surrey to an imperious 433 all out.
Surrey maintained their intensity and discipline when they walked out to the field, allowing only two Middlesex batters – Max Holden (55) and John Simpson (60) – to cross fifty. With the trio of Sean Abbott, Jamie Overton, and Tom Lawes relentlessly pouncing on their hosts and taking three wickets apiece, Middlesex were all out for 238, 195 runs behind the Three Feathers, and enforced to follow on.
Despite captain Mark Stoneman scoring 72 runs at the top of the order, the story of the second innings was not too different for Middlesex. Once Sean Abbott (4/60) and Surrey found their groove, they nailed down their opponents, collecting wickets in clusters. A 64-run stand between Josh de Caires (30*) and Ethan Bamber halted the Three Feathers’ onslaught, dragging Middlesex from 208/8 to 272/9, and the match into the fourth and final day.
An Abbott wicket in the first over of the final day and Will Jacks’ flying knock of 45* from 35 balls guaranteed that Surrey chalked off the target of 78 runs just about in time to evade an afternoon of thundering rain in north London.
A clinical performance on all fronts fetched Surrey 22 points and put them back on track at the summit of the Championship table.
Surrey make it two away wins in two at Taunton vs Somerset
Somerset 170 & 226 lost to Surrey 368 & 29/0
Surrey stayed on the road for their next fixture, visiting the south coast to take on a jolly Somerset side – who were riding a wave of momentum, having recently been crowned the Vitality Blast champions.
With Essex matching Surrey toe to toe, the expectation from the Three Feathers was to bring their A-game to Taunton, which is exactly what Rory Burns’ side did.
Tom Lawes (4/41), the youngest member of the XI, galvanised Surrey on the first morning with his snappy speed and sharp swing. The 20-year-old tore through the top order of the hosts while receiving able support from the rest of the pace attack, with each of Surrey’s five pacers featuring in the wickets. It was only Tom Kohler-Cadmore (59) who could defy the visitor’s unrelenting attack and drag Somerset to an under-par 170 all out.
Rallied by the brilliant New Zealand international Matt Henry (6/80), Somerset responded with vigour and dismissed four Surrey batters before the visitors crossed the hundred mark. From there on, Tom Latham (99) and Will Jacks (99) took matters into their hands and came together for a splendid 123-run partnership, which re-established Surrey’s ascendancy in the game.
Both constructed their innings with great distinction but unfortunately missed out on what would have been much-deserved centuries. A window-shattering cameo from Jamie Overton (42) at his old home ground, and a thrilling knock from Gus Atkinson (39*), continued the Three Feathers’ march, taking them to three batting points and 368 all out.
Trailing by a mighty 198 runs, Somerset’s batters walked out to face a Surrey bowling unit that refused to lower their energy and offer any let-ups. It was Jordan Clark (4/36) who emerged as the leader of the pack this time while the Three Feathers reduced their hosts to 149/9 inside 50 overs.
However, a late counterattack from Jamie’s brother, Craig Overton (70*), thoroughly entertained the audience and allowed Somerset to avoid losing by an innings. Once Jamie Overton’s pinpoint yorker ended the 77-run last wicket stand, Surrey’s openers safely dusted off the target of 29 runs without any loss.
Another 22 points and a complete victory, where a host of Surrey players chipped in with terrific performances, saw Surrey consolidate their lead at the top of the table heading into the final chunk of Championship cricket in September.
Mind the windows, @JamieOverton 🪟
Jamie Overton breaks a window with a six against Somerset 😲
— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) July 26, 2023