Alec Stewart reflected on five years of improvement as Surrey ended a 16-year wait for the County Championship title on Thursday.
Openers Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman laid the foundations for the tense three-wicket win over Worcestershire at Blackfinch New Road with a century stand, after Morne Morkel had set up the win with five wickets on Wednesday.
Although the bottom county made Surrey fight all the way, victory was clinched 20 minutes before tea on the final day.
And Stewart, who took over the role of director of cricket in 2013 admitted: “Things were struggling. I can’t hide behind that.
“But things don’t happen overnight and that’s where the chief executive (Richard Gould) and chairman (Richard Thompson) were very good.
“I said ‘if I’m going to come back, let me try and do it my way and if it doesn’t work kick me out – but if it does work then you can pat me on the back, even though it will be the players who have done it’.
“I said ‘give us a couple of years to get things to where they potentially could be to then move forward’ and that’s what has happened.
“You’ve got to have a Surrey nucleus to the squad. It’s almost a unique club in that you’ve got to understand the club to work there I think.
“I’m biased because I know it inside out from a young age but it is a different club to other clubs, I feel and if you understand it, you’ve got more chance of knowing how it should work potentially.
“But then it’s about appointing good people. Graham Thorpe, excellent person, Michael Di Venuto has been outstanding and then people like Vikram Solanki making the transition from player into coach.”
Stewart was also full of praise for the players, adding: “They have grown together.
“It’s a real shame Gareth Batty is not here because he has played a massive part over the last four years and is running the second team today.
“It’s nice to sit back now and watch this group grow together but the thing is they’ve got to continue to grow.
“It’s nice to have players picked for England and Rory Burns will be the next one, I’m 100 per cent certain of that.
“But it’s good to see we are getting it right on the field with Surrey and the players are being recognised at the highest level.”
Worcestershire head coach Kevin Sharp said: “It was a terrific game of cricket and it could have gone either way right to the end.
“The lads have gone toe to toe with the county champions and I’m very proud of them.
“I know it’s going to be tough now. I see my old club (Yorkshire) won today so they’ve got quite a little bit ahead of us.
“We will have to win the last two and the other results will have to go our way but we will attempt to do that – but in the meantime we’ve got something very special to look forward to (Vitality Blast finals day).”
Durham captain and former England all-rounder Paul Collingwood has announced he will end his 23-year professional career at the end of the season.
Collingwood made his debut for his hometown county in 1996 and has gone on to feature in nearly 900 matches across all formats.
The 42-year-old has been described by Durham as their “greatest ever run scorer and most illustrious player” and he will bring the curtain down in the club’s final County Championship fixture of the season against Middlesex later this month.
“After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to announce my retirement from cricket at the end of the current season,” Collingwood said.
“I knew this day would eventually come but it hasn’t made it any easier – although it’s an emotional decision, I know that the time is right and I’m comfortable knowing that I have given every last ounce of energy to the sport.”
A three-time Ashes winner and the only man to captain England to a global trophy after leading them to glory in the 2010 World Twenty20, Collingwood’s international career comprised of 68 Tests, 197 one-dayers and 36 T20s.
At one stage, he was England’s leading ODI run-scorer of all-time before being surpassed, first by Ian Bell and then Eoin Morgan, although he remains their most capped player in the format.
He retired from international duty in 2011 and was installed as Durham captain the following year, leading them to Division One safety that season before winning the championship 12 months later.
It was a third championship crown in six years for Durham and Collingwood while he also played a part in their Royal London One-Day Cup triumph in 2014.
A natural athletic ability saw him continue to play well into his 40s, helping to stabilise Durham after their relegation in 2016 following much-publicised financial issues.
“I have achieved so much with both Durham and England; far more than I ever imagined and I feel extremely privileged to have had such a long and rewarding career,” he added.
“It has been an honour to represent Durham County Cricket Club for the last 23 years and I would like to thank the staff, coaches, team mates and members for their tremendous support and for making my career so enjoyable.
“I am excited about what the future holds for me and am looking forward to new challenges.”
Collingwood, who amassed 16,891 runs and 164 wickets in 304 first-class appearances, was rewarded for his contribution to the club earlier this year with
the naming of the Paul Collingwood Pavilion.
Durham chairman Sir Ian Botham said: “Paul is one of the greatest all-rounders to ever grace the game of cricket and to have him playing at Durham, his home county, for all these years has been an absolute privilege.
“Both on and off the field he has class, intelligence and charm and it is a testament to his incredible commitment and work ethic that he has been able to compete at the top level for the amount of time that he has.
“Colly is Mr Durham and it will be very strange without him, but on behalf of myself and everyone at Durham County Cricket Club, I would like to wish him the very best in whatever the future holds.”
Play has resumed on the final day of the fifth Test at The Oval with England pressing for a victory that would give them a commanding 4-1 series win over India.
The tourists are 58 for three with the not out batsmen with Lokesh Rahul on 46 and Ajinkya Rahane on 10. The danger man for England, Indian captain Virat Kohli, won’t be playing any part today – dismissed for a rare golden duck, caught behind off Stuart Broad.
The hosts got two wickets in Tuesday’s play but Rahul frustrated England as he scored a century with India approaching the 200-mark. The opening batsman is still unbeaten and has found himself good support in the form of Rishabh Pant. The wicketkeeper/batsman brought up his maiden Test half-century with the pair putting on a 100-run stand.
Pant went on to reach his maiden Test century when he smashed Adil Rashid for a six as India reached 298-5 at tea. Rahul is unbeaten on 142.
After tea, finally there was something to celebrate for the hosts as Rashid bowled Rahul for 149 in the 81st over. The spinner then struck again to remove Pant for 114.
Sam Curran took two wickets to put England on the verge of victory before veteran bowler Jimmy Anderson bowled Mohammed Shami to clinch victory on the final day and a 4-1 series win.
For Anderson, it meant he broke the record for most Test wickets by a fast bowler, overtaking Glenn McGrath with his 564th scalp.
Follow the ball-by-ball live scores below.