Tuesday 31st May 2022 – The Vitality T20 Blast – The Oval, London
You have to admire the optimism of some people. As the rain thrashed down, the lightning cracked and the thunder rumbled through South London at 3pm, the media guys at Surrey CCC cheerfully told us play would start on time. The Met Office and skyline outside my office window suggested otherwise.
It was no surprise that at the appointed 6:30pm start time the covers were still on the outfield and both teams were warming up, playing football, as they door (still yet to see any footballers warming up with a cricket bat yet mind). A 7pm pitch inspection and the toss soon after was the order of the day, yet the Surrey social media channels kept any news of a delay firmly under wraps until the last minute – hoping not to deter any fans who were making a last minute decision to come (although the £35 ticket price on the gate was more of a deterrent than the threat of rain).
I still don’t understand the media fixation of the toss. With every minute that passed with no play, the number of overs available reduces. So having to wait for the covers to come off, then do the toss and then wait a further 10-15 minutes is pointless. Who cares about watching the flick of a coin – get it done whilst we are waiting so the minimum about of time is lost!
Finally at 7:23pm we had some play. Gloucestershire had won the toss and put Surrey into bat. There’s little doubt the Surrey opening pair of Jason Roy and Will Jacks on their day are up there with the best in the game and to borrow a term from the seven seas, they plundered the Gloucestershire attack, scoring 60 off just 26 balls before Roy was bowled by Tom Smith.
It then became a bit of a struggle for the home side. Nobody really stuck around to support Jacks as he scored his half century of 31 balls, with only new overseas signing Kieron Pollard reaching double figures. Jacks departed for 53 with the score at 111-6, with 4 overs still to go and a total of 150 still as a defendable target. But some well taken catches and tight bowling saw Surrey all out for 129 with an over still to play.
Gloucestershire needed eight an over and feeling hungry I went in search for food and a beer. In the ten minutes it took for my Greek wrap to be cooked and Yardbird to be poured, the visitors lost four wickets for thirteen runs in eighteen balls – great timing Stu. Game over surely? Not quite. Ryan Higgins smashed a rapid 37 and support from Jack Taylor and Tom Smith saw the visitors keep one eye on the target until Sam Curran came back into the attack and removed the danger man, with Gloucestershire losing their last four wickets for just 12 runs in 7 balls to complete a convincing win for Surrey by 37 runs.
We saw 30 overs in the end which was probably more than most thought when the rain was still falling at 7pm but there were a few thousand empty seats, which for the most important competition, so the counties feel, in the domestic calendar, which was disappointing. You can’t help feel that a more sensible approach to pricing, and making changes to the structure of the game, such as the toss, may deliver benefits to fans, players and the clubs alike. But when did sense and fair play ever win the day?