South African bowling legend Morne Morkel can take the credit for inspiring Surrey to their first county championship title since 2002

London (AFP) - Surrey won their first county championship title since Adam Hollioake captained them to success in 2002 as they beat Worcestershire by three wickets on Thursday.

Their victory had been set up by their star performer this season, South African bowling great Morne Morkel, who took 5-24 in Worcestershire’s second innings on Wednesday – the fourth time he has taken five wickets in the eight matches he has played in the campaign.

Openers Mark Stoneman and captain Rory Burns gave Surrey a solid start in their chase of 272 and the crown with an opening stand of 111 but Worcestershire – who are in danger of relegation – fought hard to take seven wickets.

However, it was appropriately Rikki Clarke – the only player who bridged the gap between the two title successes – who at 36 steadied the ship but left it to Morkel to score the winning runs, prompting joyous scenes of jubilation.

The championship rewarded five years of hard labour for Surrey’s director of cricket Alec Stewart.

“Things were struggling. I can’t hide behind that,” said the former Surrey and England captain.

“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,” added the 55-year-old.

For Surrey it was their ninth successive county championship victory, equalling a run they had back in 1999 under Hollioake who guided them to three titles in four years.

Even more cheering for England supporters was that seven of the 11 in the side were home-grown products, whilst Surrey fans will be delighted Morkel has two years remaining on his contract.

The celebrations may well not be over for Burns either as he is touted for a place on the England tour of Sri Lanka having struck four centuries and six half-centuries in passing 1,000 first-class runs for the fifth straight season.