Wednesday 6th July 2022 – The Vitality T20 Blast – The Oval, London
A few weeks ago someone said to me that the only things that was likely to stop Surrey in the T20 this season was their own complacency. At the time, with a 100% record from their first eight games I agreed, although even when they navigated subsequent matches with the England 50-over players absent in Amsterdam, it looked hard to see who would be able to stop them.
The answer came on a beautiful sunny London evening as Yorkshire arrived in town to face the Lions for the first ever time in a T20 match. It wasn’t complacency that eliminated Surrey, but a stoic performance from Yorkshire, who only sneaked into the Quarter-Finals after a 11th hour points deduction to Leicestershire Foxes. Oh and the ridiculous scheduling by the ECB to accommodate the aborted 2021 5th Test with India that saw key players missing for the home side.
Surrey lined up without Jason Roy, Sam Curran, Reece Topley and Chris Jordan. They were allowed Ollie Pope back, which was magnanimous of the authorities, but the visitors were also denied the skills of Johnny Bairstow and potentially Joe Root. The flare of the England players certainly contributed to this being a game that was almost devoid of much action until the final four overs, which ultimately saw the visitors upset the odds to win by the narrowest of margins.
One other notable aspect was the disappointing crowd. Having seen a full house for the game last week against Kent, Surrey slashed ticket prices to just £15 for this one but the ground (less the rammed Members Pavilion) was half full at best by the time Will Jacks led the home side out. With only three days to arrange the game, again down to the need to cram the T20 competition into the schedule this season at the expense of any common sense, it is perhaps understandable that many fans simply couldn’t change their plans.
Surrey didn’t have to wait too long before the were celebrating the first wicket. Jacks surprisingly decided to open the bowling and he tempted Adam Lyth into a under hit drive, caught superbly by Jamie Overton on his first ball he faced. Fellow opener Allen followed for 3 in the next over, again caught by Overton. But then David Willey and Tom Kohler-Cadmore settled in and put on nearly 100 in 13 overs. Boundaries were at a premium (nine within their combined score of 92) but they kept a steady, if unspectacular 7 an over, quite within the range of a depleted Surrey side. But a superb 14 ball 32 not out from Fraine meant the visitors finished on 160-5, a pleasingly exact 8 runs an over.
I’d bought tickets in the Laker Stand, one of the new additions to the redeveloped Oval. The 100+ steps to get up to the roof of the ground was more than worth it with the view across to London and a perfect view of the action. The Yorkshire fans were few and far between, staying relatively quiet with a modest total to defend but the one thing that cricket today constantly throws up the unexpected.
Jacks opened with Rory Burns, rather than the absent Jason Roy. He has been the tailsman for Surrey in the competition this year, averaging over 30 with five fifties. But he was back in the pavilion in the first over for just a single. Burns and Tom Curran put on a fifty partnership for the second wicket but some excellent bowling by Yorkshire saw the hosts struggling to get over seven an over.
The wickets of Pope, Curran and Hardie within three minutes saw Surrey on the ropes, needing seventy off six overs. And then in came Jamie Overton. The big hitting all rounder took the strike off Laurie Evans and started smashing the ball into the stands. Eleven an over became ten, then nine and with the last ball of the 19th over dispatched for six, five required to win.
Dot ball, a single, then another single. Three needed to win. Then disaster struck as Overton was run out, looking for the quick single. Sunil Narine calmly walked to the middle. He’d seen this all before and had scored some decent quick-fire runs for Surrey this season. Only one boundary was required and as he swept the ball behind he must have thought he’d won the game, but Fraine had moved around to deep third man and took a superb catch low to the ground.
Surrey now needed three off the final ball. They’d done in before, beating Somerset with a boundary off the last ball and Atkinson was the man with the hopes of a season on his shoulders. Thompson’s ball was perfect with Atkinson swiping and missing. The batsmen managed to run one but it wasn’t enough. Yorkshire had won by just one run.
It was a disappointing early exit to what had been an excellent campaign for Surrey and a case of “what if” had they been able to field their strongest side. But that’s not something they could influence and Yorkshire fully deserve their place at Edgbaston next Saturday.
Onto the Royal London Cup.