Such is the format of the Royal London One-Day Cup that, remarkably, Surrey were able to win just four of their eight group games and still find themselves in a third final in as many years.
Their, thus far successful, campaign began poorly with Surrey on the receiving end of Roelof van der Merwe’s second highest score in a Somerset shirt (165*) as they recovered from 22-5 to win by four wickets. That was despite Ben Foakes hitting 92. Foakes is yet to record a three-figure score in the competition but has six half-centuries from seven innings, and boasts the tournament’s highest average of 120.25.
Victory at Cardiff in their second game came largely thanks to Mark Stoneman, whose 48-ball 74 helped his new side to a comfortable chase of a reduced target of 182. But that failed to ignite a winning streak and, two days later, they were defeated by one wicket against Essex.
Defending just 210 after winning the toss, Jade Dernbach took four wickets – taking him to ten in white-ball cricket from just three games – but Essex’s number nine Simon Harmer helped his team over the line with an unbeaten 44.
Next up came the London derby, with Middlesex travelling south of the Thames only to return empty-handed. Nick Gubbins and John Simpsons struck fifties, but only two other batsmen made double figures. Ravi Rampaul picked up four wickets and Surrey’s top order made light work of their 244 chase, with three half-centuries.
But Surrey were to falter once again just two days later against Sussex. Mark Stoneman and Ollie Pope both made fifties but it wasn’t enough to counter the Sharks’ 300, the visitors all out for 205.
Defeat at Hove made it just two wins from five although they sat fifth, level on points with both Hampshire and Glamorgan.
Stuart Meaker had just one wicket from three One-Day Cup matches but found rejuvenated success against Kent in his fourth, taking 4-37 to bowl out the visitors for 204 in a reduced match. Foakes had earlier hit 82 to give Surrey victory and keep realistic qualification hopes alive.
George Bailey’s second highest List A score of 145* had given Hampshire a defendable total of 271 but, with rain forecast at The Oval, the almost immovable Kumar Sangakkara decided to take no risks, striking 124 from 121 balls to give his side a 66 run win on Duckworth/Lewis.
A washout at Bristol, as well as between Hampshire and Sussex at Southampton, meant Surrey finished third in the South Group and earned a playoff spot against Yorkshire.
The Vikings were Surrey’s semi-final opponents last year and once again succumbed to the Southerners. Sangakkara scored his 100th century in all forms while Foakes, whose 90 was crucial in their encounter last August, hit 86 as Surrey claimed a 24 run victory.
Jason Roy returned for the semi-final at Worcester after England’s Champions Trophy exit and scored 92, with Sangakkara and Foakes once again contributing fifties as Surrey posted a mammoth 363. Captain Gareth Batty played at New Road for eight years and picked up his first five-wicket-haul against his former club to demolish them by 153 runs, setting up Saturday’s final against Nottinghamshire.