Can Anyone Stop Surrey from Making It a Hat-Trick of County Championship Titles?

Are we in the midst of a new monopoly on the County Championship trophy?

Surrey followed up their romp to the Division 1 title in 2022 with a similarly powerful showing last season, taking top spot by 20 clear points from Essex.

It was a remarkable campaign in many ways – not a single Brown Caps player featured in either the top ten run-scorers or wicket-takers of 2023. Surrey’s success was built around numerous players from their incredibly deep squad chipping in with match-winning efforts.

The only dampener on their season came with defeat in the semi-finals of the T20 Blast – an anomaly they will be very keen to put right in 2024.

So can anybody stop Surrey from winning the domestic treble this season?

Unstoppable Force

One of the strengths of Surrey’s game is the quality of their batting and bowling on early season pitches – with the ball swinging and seaming around, they are deadly.

In 2023, the Brown Caps won four of their opening six County Championship games by a margin of nine wickets or greater – Daniel Worrall, Jordan Clark, Gus Atkinson and the evergreen Kemar Roach proving unstoppable in helpful conditions for the seam bowlers.

They were only slightly-less dominant on the flatter pitches of the summer, when experienced campaigners like Sean Abbott, Rory Burns and Dom Sibley came to the fore.

In bad news for the rest of the County Championship, there’s no reason to expect a downturn in form in 2024. Many of the same faces will return to the Kia Oval, with Abbott and Roach retained as overseas players at different points of the season.

While a handful of fringe players have been released, the Surrey squad has been bolstered with the capture of Dan Lawrence, the swashbuckling batsman with eleven test caps for England – he’ll be hoping that a strong summer with the Brown Caps will earn him a recall to the international scene.

When examining the list of upcoming competitions on mobile, it’s noteworthy that Surrey have a tough start to the new season. Come through those fixtures with a healthy haul of points and Burns’ men will be on course to retain their title.

Pretenders to the Throne

Who, if anyone, can stop Surrey’s relentless march to a third consecutive Division 1 title?

Essex and Hampshire put up the most resistance, although the former will be hampered in 2024 by the loss of Lawrence and the retirement of Alistair Cook. Hopes will be pinned on overseas recruit Dean Elgar, who joins his South African compatriot Simon Harmer at Chelmsford.

Hampshire’s is a squad packed with quality. James Vince, Liam Dawson and Nick Gubbins were outstanding with the bat throughout 2023, while Mohammad Abbas, Kyle Abbott and Dawson all picked up 40 or more wickets in prolific campaigns.

Abbas and Abbott will remain on overseas duty this term too, which suggests that Hampshire will be there or thereabouts in the title shake-up once more.

One of the most intriguing sides could be Lancashire, whose bizarre 2023 season saw them draw ten of their 14 County Championship games. Glass half-full and half-empty merchants will have a field day debating the fact that they only won three games but lost just once into the bargain.

Sultry early summer conditions could play into Lancashire’s hands, with Nathan Lyon coming over to play in Division 1 games between April and July, with the Aussie acting as a spin replacement for Matt Parkinson, who has switched to Kent.

The surprise package tag could be given to Nottinghamshire, who landed something of a coup with the signing of Josh Tongue – they’ll be hoping that England don’t come calling for the talented seamer in 2024.

Tongue could form a deadly new ball partnership with Brett Hutton, the leading wicket-taker in Division 1 last season, while Dane Peterson also returns for another overseas stint.

When you look at all of the contenders in turn, perhaps Surrey won’t have things all their own way after all…