Surrey released the vice like grip formerly held over them by Somerset, to rekindle their hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals of the Natwest T20 Blast.
The visitors survived a brief bludgeoning at the hands of Aaron Finch to restrict Surrey to a moderate 154-8, but a fine home bowling display, with Jade Dernbach excellent, limited their opponents to a disappointing 139-6
For Somerset, who had beaten The Oval Club in the teams’ four previous meeting in all competitions this season, this was a fourth T20 reverse on the bounce.
Surrey, who ended their own three-game T20 losing streak, jump to third place in a concertinaed south group, with Somerset not entirely out of the equation for a top-four finish despite languishing one off the bottom of the table with three matches to play.
Somerset’s rather brave decision to insert the hosts and, in particular, their gun opening pair, Finch and Jason Roy, cost them only seven runs from the first over – six of those from the blade of the Aussie dasher.
But Surrey’s relatively becalmed start to proceedings was merely a precursor to something altogether more explosive. Finch, who boasts an international strike rate above 150, greeted Lewis Gregory’s introduction into the visitors’ attack with a succession of barnstorming strokes. A sublime four through extra cover off the seamer’s second ball was sandwiched by two massive sixes hit to the leg side.
The next Somerset bowler to try his hand, Josh Davey, fared rather better than his chastened team-mate, having an uncharacteristically subdued Roy caught miscuing to Roelof van der Merwe at mid-off for five.
But there was no stopping Finch – yet. Jamie Overton was dispatched first over long on, then through extra cover, before the right-hander opened the face of his bat to steer the bowler through third man for another boundary.
And Finch, with an air of inevitability, brought up his fifty, from just 24 balls, by clubbing left armer Van der Merwe to the long on boundary in the seventh over.
Visiting skipper Jim Allenby’s call to bring Max Waller into his attack inexplicably brought Finch’s fun to an end, however, the leg spinner sending down a googly with his first delivery and knocking back the batsman’s leg stump.
Waller’s second over yielded another wicket, albeit this one the result of a calamitous mix-up that saw Surrey pair Dominic Sibley and Rory Burns stranded at the same end. Television replays decreed that the former had jammed his bat home first, therefore condemning the latter to depart for 11.
Sibley, who struck an unbeaten 74 when these sides last met in T20 action, didn’t make capital on his reprieve, the imposing right hander depositing Scotsman Davey down long on’s throat for a run a ball 20. And when Zafar Ansari carelessly slapped the same bowler to Overton at mid-wicket Surrey had slumped from 68-1 in the eighth, to 104-5 after 13 overs.
A packed, throbbing crowd fleetingly made its own entertainment – poor imitations of the Icelandic handclap that became such a feature of the Euro 2016 football tournament included – while Chris Morris and Sam Curran went about rebuilding a stuttering innings.
Morris turned attentions back to the middle when he skied Overton wildly into the onside, the ball travelling sufficiently high for the bowler to eat up 20 yards to complete the dismissal of the South African all-rounder.
Tom Curran located the wide long on boundary from the seventh ball he faced. But Somerset, owing to some tight, skilful bowling, with Davey particularly outstanding, had well and truly applied the brakes to the home team’s innings.
A sharp piece of work by Alex Barrow behind the stumps did for Sam Curran, but Peter Trego quickly stole the fielding show with a wonderful, extended dive at short third man to snaffle Ben Foakes off the bowing of Gregory.
And, from staring down the barrel when Finch was flaying them to all parts, Somerset would have been thrilled by the prospect of chasing 155.
Johann Myburgh, whose 86 not out was the backbone of Somerset’s successful chase of 187 in that last T20 contest between the teams in June, wouldn’t be the hero this time. The right hander was undone by a leaping catch, by wicketkeeper Foakes, when he tried to help a Dernbach delivery to the fine leg boundary.
But Myburgh’s opening partner, the irrepressible Mahela Jayawardene, was soon into his stride, hitting Tom Curran to either side of the wicket for back-to-back boundaries, before dishing out a repeat dose to Morris in the following over.
And when the Sri Lankan sent Morris out to pasture by effortlessly lifting him away for a leg-side maximum the writing appeared to be on the wall.
Dernbach did his bit to claw things back by castling Peter Trego, who went for nine, albeit Allenby came in and promptly diverted the former England limited overs bowler behind square on the off-side for a delicious boundary.
Ansari’s spin did nothing to check the serene progress of Jayawardene, who notched his 5000th domestic T20 run when he tickled the left armer down to fine leg for four.
But just as it appeared the 39-year-old was destined to see his side home he unerringly picked out Roy, the lone fielder in the deep on the leg side, to present Gareth Batty with a wicket in the Surrey captain’s first over. It was the night’s pivotal moment.
When Ansari cleaned up Van der Merwe for five Somerset’s reply was beginning to resemble the hosts’ batting effort. And the similarities continued when Dernbach athletically swopped to execute a direct hit that caught Allenby well out of his ground.
What previously seemed a routine chase had swiftly boiled down to the away team needing 53 runs from the final 36 balls. Morris went for 12 – and clattered Gregory on the head – in the 15th over, while Batty’s huge lbw shout against the same batsman was declined in the 16th.
All the while Gregory and Barrow were merely ticking over, without locating the boundaries required. Dernbach’s slower deliveries outfoxed the batsmen more than once in the penultimate over, leading to a desperate Gregory trying to smash the bowler way over the leg side boundary – but only finding Tom Curran, holding on in front of a delirious OCS Stand.
And when Morris sent down a final over at that went for only three runs the celebrations could really begin.