THE MAKING OF CHAMPIONS
What makes a champion team and how does this year's triumphant Surrey side compare with those who have trodden the same path?
Any side must have sufficient runs, given they are the oxygen which keeps the body alive but in three and four-day cricket, none will succeed without the armoury to bowl out others on a regular basis.
All the consistently successful Surrey teams have possessed the wherewithal to take 20 wickets on a regular basis.
The county's purple patch of the 1890s, winning the title five times in the first six years after the Championship became official, owed much to having quick bowlers in George Lohmann, Bill Lockwood and Tom Richardson, whose haul of wickets was staggering.
On the pitches of the time - which were left open to the weather – they could be fearsome. It's no surprise that Richardson, whose best season was in 1897 when he claimed 279 wickets, only lived to the age of 41 and Lohmann died at just 36, given their labours on the field.
Having the likes of Bobby Abel and Tom Haywood, two of the county’s most prolific runscorers, gave them the vital backing they needed.
When Stuart Surridge took over as Surrey captain in 1952, he is said to have told the general committee that Surrey would win the title for the next five years. They did exactly that and then added a couple more under Peter May.
Surridge - no mean seamer himself - had the advantage of deploying Alec Bedser, Jim Laker and Tony Lock, Peter Loader and Eric Bedser.
They were his Panzer division, capable of taking wickets in all conditions. If The Oval was more bowler-friendly at that stage than it had been before or after, they displayed their greatness by performing just as well on the road too.
Peter Adams, who played club cricket at a high level for many years, marvelled when he saw them in action each year at Guildford. He remembered: "The control they had was magnificent. No one fielded off the square. No one needed to."
Scores of 250 were frequently enough to ensure that Surrey only had to bowl once in a game. And batsmen were expected to score at a lively rate, by the standards of the time.
David Fletcher, one of the batting stalwarts and later Surrey U19s coach, recalled: "Stuart Surridge wanted us to score at four runs an over. We were told off if we went slower than that."
A world-class player in Peter May was augmented initially by the likes of Laurie Fishlock and Jack Parker initially, Ken Barrington and Micky Stewart succeeding them and fitting alongside the unsung Tom Clark and Bernard Constable.
Surrey's next great side came together at the turn of the 20th century, under Adam Hollioake. His two key bowlers were Martin Bicknell, supreme purveyor of swing and seam, and Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, the first to master the 'doosra', which spun the other way.
They gave Hollioake control, in much the same way Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne did for a quartet of Australian captains, closely supported such as Alex Tudor, Ben Hollioake and Ian Salisbury.
The fuel to power the rockets came from a deep batting line-up in which Mark Butcher, Ian Ward – who scored more runs than anyone in the three Championship successes of 1999, 2000 and 2002 – Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe, the Hollioakes, Darren Bicknell (1999), Mark Ramprakash (2002), Jon Batty, two fine back-up in Jason Ratcliffe and Nadeem Shahid plus bowlers like Tudor, Martin Bicknell, Saqlain and Salisbury almost always ensured the runs were there which allowed the captain to set aggressive fields for his attack.
The days of plenty seemed destined to last forever yet they never do and the downslope is always hard to take.
Building a squad to gain prolonged success has never been harder in English domestic cricket.
Not only must the ability, age and fitness of players been taken into consideration but factors such as central contracts – which have meant the likes of Joe Root, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow are barely on nodding terms with their county colleagues – the global growth of T20 leagues like the IPL, plus the challenges of potential relegation and promotion within the Championship, have all encouraged short-term overseas and Kolpak signings among counties.
Steering a path through those minefields takes a mixture of foresight, fortune, adaptability and a contacts book which might be the envy of Buckingham Palace.
Planning off the field is one thing, leadership on it quite another. All three of Surrey's great sides were blended by strong captains - John Shuter in the 1890s (handing on to KJ Key), Surridge (inherited by May) and Hollioake, who took over a team approaching its peak from Alec Stewart.
Rate the importance of captaincy how you like but even the most talented orchestra won't strike a tune unless it is brought together by a conductor.
Percy Fender was almost worshipped by his team in the 1920s and 1930s but, despite having the greatest of batsmen in Jack Hobbs, the pluperfect pitches prepared by “Bosser” Martin and gaps in his bowling line-up meant he was never to lead Surrey to the title, close as they went on occasions.
Micky Stewart, captain in 1971 when Surrey just pushed out Warwickshire for the title, appreciated a balanced attack in which Geoff Arnold, Robin Jackman and Bob Willis provided seam of various styles, backed up by all-rounder Stewart Storey, while he could call on off-spinner Pat Pocock, slow left-armer Chris Waller and – once Pakistan’s tour had finished – the leg-spin of Intikhab Alam.
The biggest challenge facing Stewart’s side was winning at The Oval, where the pitches had got lower and slower to the extent that the champions only once took 20 wickets in a match. It made their achievement all the more remarkable.
No bowler was more fearsome for English batsmen to face in the decade from 1979-89 than West Indian speedster Sylvester Clarke, who had the much faster surfaces relaid by Harry Brind on which to terrify the opposition.
Yet neither he, nor Waqar Younis – whose reign was somewhat shorter but often spectacular as he uprooted stumps aplenty – ever had the support they needed to push the county into pole position.
Rory Burns is the first to acknowledge that he inherited a side from Gareth Batty which was coming into its best years, a group of talented youngsters supported by experienced struts and topped by the world-class speed of Morne Morkel.
Bowlers, though, will not successful without having catchers to snap up the opportunities. The 1950s attack could not have taken all those wickets without a circle of piranhas built around wicketkeeper Arthur McIntyre in which Micky Stewart was especially outstanding.
Laker complained bitterly that in his early days of the late 1940s catches had been shelled as often as they were caught, something Surridge ensured changed very quickly.
Hollioake’s team had their own specialists, Jon Batty and Alec Stewart keeping, the captain himself often in close with Nadeem Shahid.
The 2018 side have been particularly well served in that department. Ben Foakes’s outstanding glovemanship (with Ollie Pope filling in ably) has been complemented by having Rikki Clarke and Scott Borthwick next to him – are there two better slips in the country? – plus the likes of Burns, Ryan Patel, Pope the fielder, Dean Elgar.
And no one present for the thrilling victory over Lancashire will forget the prehensile reflexes which allowed Will Jacks to snatch the matchwinning catch at short-leg by Will Jacks.
Whether the County Championship is fought over 32 games, as was once the case before limited overs cricket arrived, or 14 as now, achieving the title takes a mighty and collective effort.
Surrey won or shared it 16 times before it became official in 1890 and have now done so 20 times since. The latest champions can certainly look those who came before them in the eye after creating their own place in the club’s history.