Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: Fast start increases expectations following impressive win over Hampshire

So, week three and for Surrey it’s a case of top versus bottom. Now who, at the start of the season, could possibly have envisaged the South Londoners topping Division One at this stage with perpetual bridesmaids Somerset propping it up?

I’ve become so accustomed to Surrey being slow to start, I almost took it for granted given the four-day disappointments of the last three summers (plus what I felt would be an over-reliance on Kemar Roach with the ball) that the first objective would be confidence-building draws.

When Roach was carried off with a torn hamstring in the 14th over of Hampshire’s response, the Surrey of recent times might have doubted themselves.

They certainly wouldn’t have enforced the follow-on with the pick of their attack receiving attention on the physio’s bench.

But the biggest compliment you could pay them was that, at no stage, did they look like a side who were a bowler down. Jamie Overton was simply magnificent. Another who impressed was James Taylor, whose 3-56 in Hampshire’s second dig went a bit under the radar.

Taylor, 21, is in his third season at the Oval, having moved down from Derbyshire in 2020. He would almost certainly have had more game time had he stayed put, so it says a lot about the lad’s ambition that he wanted to challenge himself in Division One.

Surrey’s head coach Gareth Batty keeps emphasising that feet need to be kept on the ground, but to brush aside a team with Hampshire’s pedigree only serves to raise expectations.

And if Jamie Overton can continue leading the attack in the way he did in the last game, who knows? Especially with Sam Curran close to being fit again.

Overton must be savouring the prospect of playing against his twin brother Craig when Somerset visit the Oval this week – not least because the runners-up in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020 haven’t managed to put 200 on the board this season.

Jamie puts his resurgence down to the work he has been doing with Surrey’s new bowling coach Azhar Mahmood.

“Last year I was trying too hard,” said Overton. “One or two things didn’t go my way and I had a few dropped catches.

“When I came to Surrey I wanted to perform straight away. But, instead of just letting things happen, I tried to make them, and when they don’t happen it’s hard to get out of feeling that everything is going against you.

“I had a chat with Azhar a few weeks ago and the work we’ve done since then has allowed me to bring more intensity into my action, but also more control.

“I’ve shortened my run-up, but I’m running in a little bit quicker and getting more momentum through the crease.

“I hardly bowled anything down the leg side [against Hampshire] and that’s another good sign and great for me going forward.”

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