Surrey 351 (Burns 90, Elgar 75, Clarke 56) and 2 for 0 beat Essex 126 (Westley 49, Clarke 4-28) and 226 (Bopara 81, Clarke 4-47) by 10 wickets
Not since 1999 have Surrey won eight Championship games on the bounce, and their current run certainly has a once-in-a-generation feel to it. That run owed much to the dual spin threat of Saqlain Mushtaq and Ian Salisbury; this time, it has been all about the seamers.
On the third day at Chelmsford, led by Morne Morkel and the evergreen Rikki Clarke, they bowled Essex out for the second time in just over three sessions to go 43 points clear at the top of the Championship, and look certain to secure the pennant before the final round of games. Ravi Bopara offered staunch resistance with an unbeaten 81, but despite being some way short of their bullish best, Surrey's pace attack was simply too good.
For some time this fixture had been earmarked as a final test of Surrey's credentials. Away from home against the reigning champions, it should have been a tough challenge; instead, they cruised to victory with a full day to spare.
Surrey have proved over the course of the year that Championship cricket requires a squad rather than just a team. They have used 20 players, and that Tom Curran, who did the early damage, was playing for just the second time in this competition this season, showed their impressive level of depth.
Curran was fearsome in his opening burst, running in with his collar up and his hair slicked back. He trapped Varun Chopra lbw early, before beating Tom Westley's outside edge time after time and eventually ending his difficult stay at the crease by sending his off stump cartwheeling.
It seems a long time since Curran made his Test bow at the MCG back in December, and his youngest brother Sam has overtaken him in England's long-form plans this summer. But Tom remains a fine bowler at the Championship level, and his first spell of the day was a reminder of his worth in red-ball cricket. He bowled with hostility and an extra yard of pace, and found enough movement off the seam to keep Essex guessing.
The middle-order destroyer was again Clarke. He made good use of a helpful pitch to remove Dan Lawrence and Nick Browne, both caught in the slips off back-of-a-length balls that lifted sharply, before Rory Burns' stunning catch in the gully accounted for Ryan ten Doeschate to leave Essex five down going into lunch.
At that point, the only question was whether or not Essex could make Surrey bat again, and thanks to Bopara and some old-fashioned tail-end slogging from Jamie Porter and Sam Cook, they did. Bopara was the only Essex batsman throughout the game to look comfortable at the crease, as he rotated the strike well and scored fluently both sides of the wicket. When he brought up a 76-ball half-century, he had hit just three boundaries; it was an innings that highlighted the importance of ticking over against quality bowling.
But in truth, Bopara's knock served only to delay the inevitable. Morkel returned to remove Simon Harmer for a pair, and then ended Porter's fun after a couple of lofted boundaries off Clarke, before Bopara and Cook added 18 to leave Surrey needing two.
The impact Morkel has had on this Surrey team cannot be overstated. His Championship debut was the first game of this eight-match winning run, and it would be brave to suggest that is in any way coincidental. He now has 42 wickets at 14.57, and has terrorised Division One batsman up and down the country. He did not bowl as well as he can here, but a couple of sharp bouncers to Michael Pepper and Porter showed that his pace has by no means dropped.
Surrey now go to New Road next week to play bottom club Worcestershire in the knowledge that a win will effectively, if not mathematically, seal the title with two games to spare. On the basis of this run, they will be worthy winners.