It is an exciting end of the season for everyone at Surrey, and after what the club has been through during the past six or seven years it is very nice to be able to write those words.
Surrey’s last domestic titles came in 2003, when we won both the newly-created Twenty20 Cup and the National League one-day competition, so for the current team to be contesting the Clydesdale Bank 40 final at Lord’s on September 17, against Somerset, is hugely significant. Indeed, our last cup final appearance at Lord’s was back in 2001, when we beat Gloucestershire to win the Benson and Hedges Cup.
Before then, of course, we have our final two County Championship fixtures of the summer to play – against Essex at Chelmsford and then at home to Derbyshire at the Oval – and we still believe we have a chance of overhauling Northamptonshire, who lie second at the moment 23 points ahead of us, but with just one game to go – and getting into the promotion places.
Personally, I hope to be able to play a big part in both matches as this season has been a very difficult one for me. My knee has stood up well, following my operation last winter and the long months of rehabilitation, but I did push it to play earlier than scheduled and I have not been able to practice or train to the levels that I would want in between the matches I have played.
All in all, it has been very frustrating not to have yet contributed to the team in the way I would expect of myself, so I will be trying as hard as I can to put some of that right in these last two games. But, already, I am looking forward to the winter work that I can put in this time ahead of next season to get myself ready for it.
If we are Division One of the Championship by then, so much the better but whatever happens I will not be lacking for motivation in 2012 because I do not enjoy my cricket very much when I am not being successful on a personal level. This summer has therefore not been as enjoyable as usual, and I hope that changes next year!
It has been good, however, this summer to see how the Surrey team has grown in stature and confidence. We have been a bit too inconsistent in Championship cricket, but we have also been improving in four-day cricket in recent weeks and the victory up at Northampton last week has given us at least an outside chance of catching them and that’s a great incentive to have as we approach the last couple of games.
Northants do not play in this week’s round, and then finish with a home match against Gloucestershire, who will not be an easy side to beat and could even still have an outside chance of going up themselves by the time they go up to Wantage Road.
I have been very impressed, though, with the way our predominantly young side have progressed in the CB40 competition, where we have been outstanding and probably, as we build up to playing the final, the best team in it so far.
Rory Hamilton-Brown has led the team exceptionally well and has really matured as a player and as a person this year. He is not afraid of making the quick decisions that as captain you have to make in one-day cricket, and his partnership with Steve Davies at the top of the batting order is a thrilling one. Davies in particular has been in scintillating form in recent weeks and I think he is now fully over being dropped by England last winter.
Jason Roy is a tremendous batting talent, and so dangerous in one-day cricket as he bats with no fear and hits down the ground through the ‘V’ so well and so fluently, while Tom Maynard has thrived at Surrey this summer. The coaches worked hard with him earlier in the season to iron out a couple of little things in his technique, and he has grown in confidence while going up the one-day order and, in my view, has already benefitted hugely from moving away from the Glamorgan ‘bubble’.
Experienced players at the club like Gareth Batty, Yasir Arafat and Zander de Bruyn are guys who are very consistent and you know what you are going to get with them. But it is the strides forward being made now by the younger players that is turning us into a team to be reckoned with. Our bowling attack is also quite varied, and capable of adapting to different conditions, so that has been a factor too in the success we have had in both four-day and one-day cricket this season.
Matt Spriegel and Zafar Ansari are two other young guys who have come in and performed well. They both bowl and bat, and also field very well, so they are always contributing something to the cause.
This summer may not have been as much fun for me personally as most other seasons, but it has been great to see the club making such progress, and a Lord’s final – even if we just miss out on promotion – will be an occasion for us to celebrate that progress and to underline it to the rest of English cricket.