On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, the panel picked a composite County Championship team of the 2000s as part of Wisden’s 2000s in Review series.
When discussing Mark Ramprakash, who ended up taking the No.3 spot in the side as what panellist and Test Match Special commentator Dan Norcross termed “the only no-brainer” in the selection debate, the conversation moved onto where the Surrey side of which he was a part ranked in the annals of the great teams.
“I was looking at the Surrey squad that won the Championship in 2002,” said host Yas Rana. “Eighteen of their squad played international cricket. They had available to them an international team, plus some others. They could have fielded [Ian] Ward, [Ali] Brown, Ramprakash, [Graham] Thorpe, [Alec] Stewart, [Mark] Butcher, [Adam] Hollioake in their top seven easily. Ramprakash was miles ahead in terms of English batsmen.”
“14,000 runs in a decade, I mean that’s ridiculous,” said Dan. “As you point out, that Surrey team, what was so extraordinary about it was that so many of their players were playing for England and yet they were still completely dominant. It was the best county team I think I’ve ever seen, that Surrey team in the back end, and it was impossible to see how they could lose.”
“I interviewed Ramprakash a couple of days ago and he said there was a lot of surprise when he went to Surrey in 2001 because people didn’t think he’d get in the team, Surrey were that good,” said Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine editor Jo Harman.
The season’s averages tell their own tale of Surrey’s dominance. Three players, Hollioake, Ward, and Scott Newman averaged more than 60, albeit the latter played just three games, and another trio, Ramprakash, Brown, and Stewart averaged in excess of 50. On the bowling side, Saqlain Mushtaq was the standout, while Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed were more than capable overseas stand-ins.
On the non-overseas front, Martin Bicknell, who narrowly missed out on the County Championship team of the 2000s, Tim Murtagh, who made the County Championship team of the 2010s, Jimmy Ormond, Ian Salisbury, and Alex Tudor all played Test cricket at one point or another.
When asked if they were the best individual side of the decade, Jo found it tough to argue. “If you look across the line-up it’s hard to look elsewhere. Sussex were a brilliant side who won it three times, but in terms of a star-studded team they were nowhere near that Surrey side. I don’t think we’ve seen a team like that Surrey side since, in terms of personnel.”
After the final XI had been picked, the panel revisited the topic. “Do we think that side would have beaten the 2002 Surrey team?” asked Dan.
“I wondered exactly the same thing and I think probably not,” answered Jo.