Victory in the County Championship game at Northampton was a big boost for everyone connected with Surrey, and it was personally very pleasing to be there at the crease at the end and to play an innings which helped to clinch our first win for a year. I’ve not had that feeling for quite some time!
I think we have all felt, within the team, that we have been threatening to do good things in four-day cricket, especially as a result of our improved showing in the previous week’s match against Middlesex, but it was fantastic to see things coming together at Northampton. I think we were all beginning to wonder when and if that first Championship win of the season was going to happen.
Rory Hamilton-Brown has done well as captain in these first two months of the season, and he is beginning to forge a very strong relationship with Chris Adams, our cricket manager.
It was always going to be a tough job for Rory to do, and a huge challenge for him, especially in four-day cricket as a person who is still only 22 years old and – before this summer – someone with only eight first-class matches behind him.
As a batsman, too, going in at number four or five, Rory is learning much with every game that goes by. In one-day cricket he plays lots of shots but in first-class games he is learning to pace his innings. Sometimes, inexperienced players can take the wrong option at the wrong time. If you get in, you have to go on.
There have been some incredible changes at Surrey during the past couple of years – I have never seen anything like it. A lot of players left the club at the end of last season and quite a number of new players have come in, including Rory himself as well as the likes of Chris Tremlett, Gareth Batty and Steve Davies.
It would be a big task for anyone to weld everything together, and I think Rory has responded as well as he possibly could.
Obviously, Chris Adams has a great track record when it comes to leadership and moulding effective units together, but I remember sitting down with both Rory and Chris when we were in Dubai in pre-season and talking about how it would take a bit of time before we would see any genuine evidence of progress as a team.
We said then, a couple of incredibly hectic months ago now, that perhaps we would have to play six or seven Championship matches before we could draw any real conclusions about our form, and progress, and that’s exactly how it has happened. And that’s why our last two performances, against Middlesex and Northants, have been so important.
It was good, during our earlier struggles in the four-day game, that we had some good results in one-day cricket: that boosted morale and helped to keep everyone going.
But now we’ve got games against Glamorgan – the early Division Two leaders – and Leicestershire, before the break for Twenty20, to see if we can back up our win at Northampton and try to get ourselves up off the bottom of the table.
There was a danger, before we beat Northants, that we would find ourselves a bit adrift at the bottom and I for one don’t want to be thrashing around trying to get off the bottom when I’m going out there to play my cricket.
My belief, though, is that in the second division it is very much a case of every team having the capability to beat anyone else – and so we will see how things go from now on.
Tremlett, Andre Nel and Batty are proven performers in our bowling attack and, especially in the Middlesex game on a flat batting track, Jade Dernbach showed that he has the ability to try different things and be successful with that sort of experimentation. Stuart Meaker is another young fast bowler who has much promise, and Tim Linley bowled very well at Northampton.
With Younus Khan joining the club as overseas player, we will also gain his massive experience and world-class ability at the top of the batting order and so, overall, there is much that is beginning to fall into place.
I am just happy to have scored the runs that I have done at this stage of the season. I did not have my usual amount of pre-season preparation, and despite a hundred in our first game – against Derbyshire – I have found conditions quite tough in April and early May.
When we played Middlesex at the Oval, and I got in, I simply tried to do what I’ve always been told to do, and that is to cash in and be ruthless at the crease. It’s an example I hope is starting to rub off on some of our younger batsmen.
A lot of people say that I try even harder against Middlesex, as I average well over 100 against them since leaving my first club in 2001, but I can honestly say that I try to play the same way against everyone!
At the Oval recently, when I scored a double-hundred and hundred in the same first-class match for the first time in my career, it was simply a case of Middlesex being in the wrong place at the wrong time! It was the best pitch we’d played on all season, for batting, and I wanted to make the most of it.