Surrey 134 for 8 (Henriques 45, Miles 3-25) beat Gloucestershire 130 for 9 ( S Curran 4-13) by two wickets
Fittingly, in a T20 Blast campaign that has seen Surrey stutter with every strut, a messy win has left them in control of their own destiny going into their final group match. Victory by two wickets over Gloucestershire, achieved with all the conviction of two dogs in a long coat applying for a mortgage, owed much to a bit of pluck as well as Gloucestershire’s own incompetence.
Boy wonder Sam Curran gave Surrey the potential for a clear passage through to the last eight with one of the spells of the season, taking four wickets for no runs in the space of nine balls, which included three in his second over.
Dangerman Michael Klinger was caught at mid off, before yorkers to Phil Mustard and Cameron Bancroft in successive balls, then Iain Cockbain chipping to mid on ripped the heart and soul out of Gloucestershire’s middle order.
Late graft saw Gloucestershire post 130 for 9 and Surrey knew that a quick polishing off of the target would improve their net run rate, with a number of sides expect to finish on equal points when the South Group culiminates tomorrow. Aaron Finch hit the first ball of the innings for six and so the assault began.
But Gloucestershire dug deep to reduce Surrey to 69 for 4 after 12 overs. Australian Moises Henriques, appreciating that a quick fix was out of the question, ran all bar 16 of his 45 runs before he was run out smartly by Cockbain, attempting to regain the strike. Rikki Clarke’s cool head found 13 from the 17th over against David Payne, which included a flicked six over midwicket, leaving 20 needed from the final 18 balls.
Naturally, Surrey had a few more duff ups left. Clarke ran himself out on the second ball of the 18th over and then Sam Curran was bowled four balls later, attempting to ramp over the keeper. With the equation now 15 off 12, David Payne conceded seven from the first three balls, removed Stuart Meaker and then overstepped with the very next delivery. The free hit brought just two, the extra ball one and so three were needed off the final over. A couple of leg byes and a clip of Gareth Batty’s toes saw the hosts home, finally, with four balls to spare.
South London nights have been good to Surrey and they owe it to the atmosphere they have cultivated at the Oval to be a serious player in T20 cricket.
They have seen an increase of between five and 10% on last year’s ticket sales for the T20 Blast. Three games at the Oval have been sell-outs, while their match against Glamorgan last week was as good as. Across both their Sunday fixtures – the trickiest day to sell, with a very different clientelle more in tune with Fraggle Rock than the Fratellis – they welcomed more than 30,000 through their gates.
They used this final home match of the group stage to try out a new Family Area up on the OCS balcony. Families are usually situated in the Peter May Stand, but feedback to the club has highlighted that rowdiness often spills over causing those with families a degree of discomfort. Surrey have been accused in the past for allowing raucousness in the stands to go too far, so this is very much a step in the right direction.
But as much as T20 cricket is about drawing in crowds, and few do it better than Surrey, the club need something tangible on the field beyond the catwalk of big names that drop in and out as per their schedule. Victory over Kent on Friday will secure passage to the quarter-finals.
Defeat in this manner sums up a Gloucestershire season that will see them claim bottom-place with a day still to go in the South Group. For a side so well-equipped at white ball cricket on paper, and with results in previous seasons to prove it, it marks the end of a sorry season in all three formats.
Throughout this period, Michael Klinger has been their stand-out leader when it comes to runs, but his 281 this season represents his lowest return in English domestic T20 cricket, with 0, 9, 0 and today’s 11 making up his last four knocks. Unfortunately for the county, no one was able to pick up his slack: he finishes as Gloucestershire’s leading run scorer and the only player to make a score over 60 (101 in defeat to Hampshire).
Benny Howell excelled once more. Possibly one of the most underrated bowler all-rounders in the country, his T20 season ended with a 2 for 18 from four overs that helped invoke panic in Surrey’s ranks. His 16 wickets this year have been achieved with an economy rate of less than six. None of the top 19 wicket-takers in the country match his frugality.