Rory Burns not writing off Surrey’s title hopes yet

BY MARCUS HOOK

Rory Burns hasn’t written off Surrey’s chances of challenging for the County Championship title but concedes that the odds are lengthening all the time.

It’s not quite crisis time at Surrey but they have just one victory in all forms of cricket this season and have suffered two successive defeats in the County Championship – the competition they won so convincingly in 2018.

The Oval outfit lie sixth of out eight in Division One going into this week’s clash with third-placed Yorkshire at Guildford.

The South London club lost by 102 runs to Somerset last week, their opponents going top of the Division One table.

Surrey captain Burns, 28, said: ”What did we win last year? Ten games? We’ve got nine games left in the championship. If we win all of them we’ll be there or thereabouts.

“It’s down to us. It’s still in our control. If Somerset go on a run they’re going to pull away, but there are some good teams and if someone else beats them for us we can still reel them back in.”

It was another tale of brittle batting – this time against the champions elect, Somerset – last week at Guildford.

Surrey were dismissed for 231 and 164 in the space of 130 overs with just two batsmen – Ryan Patel and Ben Foakes in the first dig – recording half-centuries.

“The way we bowled on day three to get ourselves back into it – we would have taken needing another 168 to win with eight wickets left this morning,” said opener Burns, who is one of only three specialist batsmen currently averaging over 35 for Surrey in four-day cricket [Rikki Clarke and Scott Borthwick being the others].

“It’s not how we wanted the last day to go. There was a game to win there, but we haven’t been able to do that, which is disappointing.

“There’s just little things at the minute. Dropping George Bartlett [who went on to make 137] on nought was probably a crucial moment in the game, but it’s good to see Dunny [Matt Dunn] back and firing at his best.

“A career best for him was excellent.

“Batters showed at various times on that wicket it wasn’t unplayable. We’re probably not being got out at the minute, we’re finding ways of getting ourselves out. That’s a crucial difference and it’s something we, as a batting group, have got to put right.

“Everything you do in this game is done in partnerships and when you’re the two out in the middle, with bat in hand, it’s your moment to try and seize the initiative. We haven’t quite managed to do that as a group, and it’s something we’ve got to try and put right.

“We will put it right, but it’s all about breaking it down into smaller things and building it back into a process.”

Burns expects to have the likes of Jordan Clark, Sam Curran, Jade Dernbach, Conor McKerr and Amar Virdi to call upon again for the Warwickshire game, starting on June 23, but the England opener refuses to blame injuries on his side’s slow start to the 2019 campaign.

“Yes, there are a lot of injuries around at the moment,” said Burns, who could also have referenced the World Cup absences of Tom Curran, Liam Plunkett and Jason Roy. “But we still have a lot of very good players in that dressing room and we’re lucky to have the strong squad we have. Smaller counties would be struggling to get a full side on to the park.

“There are opportunities now for people to come in and perform, as Matt Dunn has shown. As a team, though, there are lots of little things we are not getting right at the moment – so it’s good that we have another chance against Yorkshire to start to put them right.”

PICTURE BY KEITH GILLARD

OVER OF STATS

Ball 1 – Surrey have won 19 County Championships outright, a record that is second only to Yorkshire – this week’s opponents – who have been crowned 32 times.

Ball 2 – In the seasons Surrey have won the title, their first six outings have produced at least one victory; which suggests if they fail to get off the mark this week, their chances of retaining the champions’ pennant are slim.

Ball 3 – In 2000, Surrey just had a solitary victory at the same stage, along with three draws and two losses.

Ball 4 – Their best opening to a County Championship campaign was in 1955, when they started with nine successive victories; closely followed by 1891, when Surrey opened their account with eight successes on the trot.

Ball 5 – Since Yorkshire’s last four-day visit to Guildford, in 2002, Surrey’s record at their second home reads a disappointing P17, W1, D7 and L9

Ball 6 – As if to underline Surrey’s injury problems, only Durham and Hampshire, with 18, have fielded more players, so far, in this summer’s County Championship. Derbyshire, with 12, have pressed the fewest into action.

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