Alec Stewart admits Surrey will need to get their “red ball heads on” quickly for the resumption of the Specsavers County Championship campaign on Sunday.

The past month has been devoted to T20 cricket and after next week’s brief return to the first-class game – Hampshire visit the Kia Oval – it will take over again until early next month, testing the adaptability of all the county players.

“The schedule isn’t ideal but it’s the same for everyone and it’s something we’ve known about all along,” reckoned director of cricket Stewart.

For Surrey it has been a sobering summer after the joy of taking the Championship Division One title last year, claiming the pennant for the first time since 2002. They have won only two four-day matches, the most recent their last outing in mid-July when they beat Nottinghamshire by 167 runs at Trent Bridge. It was a result which should confirm survival, given Notts are now 57 points behind with only four matches remaining.

Given a disastrous Royal London Cup 50-over campaign and qualification for the knockout stages of the Vitality Blast looking all but impossible, Stewart accepts there is no hiding from disappointment about Surrey’s season: “League tables don’t lie. We haven’t played with the consistency needed.”

Two of their remaining four Championship games are against Hampshire – the return coming on September 10 at the Ageas Bowl against a side currently two places higher in fourth – before a trip to leaders Essex at Chelmsford and home date against Notts.

“Having won the last match against Nottinghamshire, the aim is to build on that and make it a successful finish,” said Stewart.

Spearhead Morne Morkel is back looking refreshed from a holiday with his family in Australia, warming up by playing for Surrey’s second team against Somerset at LSE New Malden this week.

His colleagues have been familiarising themselves again with a red ball in the nets but their task is made all the more complicated by having to play T20 matches against Sussex at The Oval (Thursday) and Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl on Friday, less than 48 hours before the return to Championship action. The hosts will be missing skipper Rory Burns, opening for England in the Lord’s Test.

Two wins from nine games left Surrey next to bottom in the Vitality Blast South Group. They went down to Middlesex by 64 runs at Lord’s last Thursday, being unable to prevent the hosts racing to 210-8 as South African AB de Villiers showed he remains one of the best batsmen in the world by cracking 64. Yet he was outshone by England World Cup skipper Eoin Morgan’s inventive 70 from 37 balls. Aaron Finch’s 47 could only push the visitors up to 146 after following a fierce spell from Steven Finn (5-16).

At The Oval 24 hours later, Gloucestershire’s more modest 165-8 proved sufficient, rain amending the target to 104 from 12 but the hosts left short at 94-2 despite Sam Curran’s 51no. But at least Surrey were able to overcome bottom side Glamorgan at Cardiff on Sunday, Mark Stoneman’s 53 launching a chase for 153 which was achieved with an over in hand.