After a season which brought promotion and a one day trophy, there is much praise to be dished out - the whole team did a magnificent job. Here's my take on the individuals most worthy of praise.
Player of the season: Tim Linley
No one else at the club stood so clearly and consistently head and shoulders above the rest this season. Linley took over a quarter of all Surrey's wickets in the Championship, and he very nearly tripled his career haul of wickets. He doesn't have express pace and he doesn't swing it round corners, though he did appear this season to have an extra yard of pace on 2010. He does just enough with the ball and bowls it in uncomfortable areas for the batsman. His economy rate in the Championship of 2.78 was bettered only by Pragyan Ojha and incredibly he bowled 22% more overs than the next most frequent bowler, Gareth Batty. He will have a harder time of it next season with better batsmen and a less bowler-friendly ball than the Tiflex he bowled with this season, but I don't doubt he'll go away in the winter and work even harder on his game.
Batsman of the season: Zander de Bruyn
This one was almost as much of a no-brainer, de Bruyn scored a third as many runs again as the next highest scorer, Hamilton-Brown. Adams would have signed him with an eye on him being the steady pair of hands in the middle order, and he was just that all season long. He averaged over 50 batting at number three, four and six, wherever he came in he could be relied on to come up with the goods. His bowling was also more than useful in all formats, he was even called on to open the bowling on a couple of occasions late in the season and was never profligate when required to turn his arm over. It was a huge relief when he signed an extension to his contract and I don't doubt that he'll continue to reassure us all in 2012.
Bowler of the season: Tim Linley
What more can I say? I toyed with giving someone else the award just to share it about but such was the quality of Linley's bowling this season that wouldn't have been fair. Honourable mention for Stuart Meaker who had he not been injured mid-season would unquestionably have passed the 50 wicket mark. The few televised games that he played confirmed that he is still a 90mph+ bowler and when he gets his radar right his yorker is absolute dynamite. He suffers occasionally in limited overs because of a slight lack of variation but I'm sure that will come with time.
Fielder of the season: Zafar Ansari
Jason Roy and Tom Maynard, both of whom often took catches leaping salmon-like in the outfield, would have been worthy recipients but Ansari deserves an award. A couple of his diving stops on the boundary really stick in the mind, one in the T20 against Sussex at Whitgift and one in the CB40 final at Lord's. He is extremely quick across the ground and his hands are as safe as houses. He will be a pleasure to watch as his game develops over the next few years.
Innings of the season: Tom Maynard 123 vs Derbyshire
Again this was a tough call to make, because late-season efforts will always stick in the mind more readily. However Maynard's third hundred of the season was without doubt the most important. If he'd given his wicket away early I doubt if we would have made the 400 mark that we desperately needed. But he didn't and although he didn't shepherd the side all the way there he hung around until we were within 18 runs of the mark. The pace at which he scored his runs, at a strike rate of almost 80, meant we got to the 400 mark with overs to spare. Another honourable mention, this time for Chris Schofield for his knock of 72 in the CB40 game at Northants. This was the game where Adams chose to debut his Schofield-as-pinch-hitter strategy and a fine debut it was too. Schofield forged partnerships of 72 and 88 with Roy and Maynard, both at better than 7 an over. If we hadn't successfully chased Northants' impressive total of 296 it could have precipitated a late season slump in form (just a couple of days before we'd been thumped by Kent), as it was we went on a roll after this game and never looked back.
Spell of the season: Stuart Meaker 5-37 vs Northants
Was this the moment we all started to genuinely believe promotion was going to happen? We'd been bowled out for a less-than-dominant 269 and Northants were cruising at 174-3, looking more than likely to take a handy first innings lead. Stuart Meaker had other ideas though and with a spell of four wickets for six runs in seven balls he ripped out the heart of the Northants batting and precipitated a collapse to 194 all out. The promotion bandwagon rumbled on. Another honourable mention, from the same game Pragyan Ojha's incredible spell of six wickets for just eight runs which consigned Northants to the biggest runs defeat in first class cricket in England in 2011.
Most improved: Tim Linley
Seriously, what more can I say? 38 wickets in his career prior to April the 8th 2011, 73 wickets since then. Enough said.
Opposition player of the season: Rob Key
There was really only one contender in my mind for this, he averaged 112 in four Championship innings against us this season. His knock of 162 in the second innings took Kent to within 21 runs of winning the game, it was a herculean effort. His second innings 110 at Canterbury, in a match where the next highest score on either side was 49 was no less impressive. He is still one of the finest county batsmen around. One final honourable mention: Lou Vincent for his 14 off 19 balls at in the Twenty20 at Whitgift. An innings with a strike rate of 73 - no one else who passed ten in the game scored at a strike rate of less than 130 on the postage stamp-sized ground. Vincent came to the crease with Sussex cruising at 118-2 off 11 overs, well up with the required rate but Vincent's stuttering effort allowed us back into the match.
That's it for another year, the next six months are going to drag on and on but there's so much to look forward to in 2012, and this far from the last you'll hear from me in 2011, there's plenty still to come!
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