Amar Virdi sent Surrey into the Vitality T20 Blast in a much happier frame of mind after his remarkable comeback at Trent Bridge, bowling them to victory by 167 runs.

The 20-year-old off-spinner, whose emergence was a factor in his side romping to the Specsavers County Championship title last year, had been sidelined by – first – a back injury picked up during the winter and then Surrey’s insistence that he improve his general level of fitness in a regime of described as “tough love”.

New slimline Virdi’s return could not have been better timed, finding a reused pitch which was dry and cracked, offering plenty of help to spinners and on which he outclassed Division One’s basement side Nottinghamshire – without a win this season and looking certain to be the one side relegated – to claim 14 wickets for 139.

That eased Surrey’s own concerns after defeat by Kent at the Kia Oval last week threatened to drag them into a tussle for to avoid the drop. With four matches left they are 57 points clear of danger.

A squad already depleted by World Cup calls and injuries had also lost wicketkeeper Ben Foakes and all-rounder Sam Curran to the England Lions for their match against Australia A, Surrey heading to Trent Bridge with just one victory and four defeats from nine games. They were grateful to Dean Elgar (59) and youngster Jamie Smith (42) for making 240 all out after Rory Burns won a vital toss, conditions already so spin friendly that Virdi opened the bowling when Notts replied and produced a career-best 8-61 in dismissing the hosts for 116.

And although Indian off-spinner Ravi Ashwin took his own tally to 12 wickets in the match with 6-75, 19-year-old Smith’s 57 and Jordan Clark’s 54 ensured Surrey totalled 224-9dec second time round to set Notts an impossible 349. Ashwin’s defiant 66 reduced the final margin but this time Virdi finished with 6-78, veteran Gareth Batty claiming 3-62.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Virdi’s haul was his county’s best since Martin Bicknell took 16-119 against Leicestershire in 2000 and he was the first spinner from the county to claim 14 victims in a match since Roger Harman against Derbyshire at Ilkeston in 1968.

“It was a good pitch for spinners, so I can’t say anything other than I enjoyed bowling on it,” reckoned Virdi.

“My career has been pretty short so far, so I’ve not seen one like that before but hopefully we’ll get some more.”

Surrey have just four more Championship games to lift themselves from sixth place, the next when they host Hampshire at the The Oval on August 18-21, playing the return match on September 10-13. That is followed just three days later by a trip to new leaders Essex before finishing off on September 23-26 by entertaining Notts.

Much of the time in between will be taken pursuing T20 success, when they are due to be bolstered by the return of Australia’s hard-hitting World Cup captain Aaron Finch plus South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir. Seamers Tom Curran and Liam Plunkett should play a leading role in the campaign now that they are free of England commitments.

Friday’s trip to play Essex at Chelmsford makes a potentially tricky start, followed by a double bill at The Oval next week against Middlesex on Tuesday and Glamorgan on Thursday.