On July 15, 2004, Lord’s had a problem with touts at St Johns Wood tube station.
They had the hottest ticket in town, one of nearly 28,000 packed in to the home of cricket on a Saturday on a glorious day in the capital.
But it wasn’t for an England match. Neither was it for an international, or even a domestic final. This was a T20 between Middlesex and Surrey, a group game which remarkably had nothing on it in terms of qualification, Pride was the only takeaway.
Those fans, almost 13 years ago – a year after the invention of T20 cricket – paved the way for excitement games like the London derby, War of the Roses, Battle of the Bridge, ElClasicoast and Bears v Pears to name a few are beginning to command.
On Thursday the two London sides meet again, almost on the anniversary of that day, with no tickets left in the house and for what is expected to be another blockbuster.
More than 27,000 came for the same fixture last year as Middlesex chased down 197 to get one over their south-of-the-river counterparts, but it’s Surrey who this year come into the game in form.
Beaten Royal London One-Day Cup finalists, Alec Stewart’s side have blasted off in the game’s shortest format thus far, opening with a thrilling nerve-shredding victory over Essex, at Chelmsford
It was to get better, though in equally frantic style, as Corey Anderson and Somerset recovered from 49-6 to get within four of victory. It is the Rey, however, sitting pretty in their bid for the knockouts.
They missed out on that feat by just a point last year, but it’s Middlesex who could be feeling the squeeze and a need for an early win on the board.
With a T20 history not worth shouting about, they’ve taken a unique approach to hire a specialist coach in Daniel Vettori, the former New Zealand all-rounder, though solace did come in the shape of a quarter-final last year.
Like Surrey, their season too started with drama – as they and Gloucestershire opened up the competition with a tie at Cheltenham.
It was one Vettori’s charges had to do the hard way however, recovering from 119-8 in the 16th over to dramatically level on 182-9.
That was in no small part due to Ryan Higgins’ 68 from 28 balls, though with a top four batting unit reading Paul Stirling, Brendom McCullum, Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan – all internationals in the format – Middlesex will be hopeful of them doing the battling legwork.
Dawid Malan had to miss the subsequent fixture last year due to England A call-ups, and will be frothing at the mouth to get his opportunity to shine this time around.
Usually opening the batting alongside Paul Stirling, Malan finally got his long overdue chance in the international side against South Africa last month, making 78 – the best of any England debutant – to suggest there is plenty more to come.
The 29-year-old has only had one chance of an innings for his club this summer, making 36, though with the pressure of captaincy no longer on his shoulders with McCullum taking the helm, a match against Surrey could be another breakthrough point.
Aaron Finch has been Surrey’s star with the bat to date, with the Australian making a half-century in both of his innings in the campaign so far.
Hitting 56 off 27 balls at Essex, and 61 off 42 deliveries against Somerset, his power and placement has been nothing short of protection, with his strike-rate in particular vital for getting the right side of the narrow victories.
Opening with Jason Roy, Finch’s power means he can use the pace presented to him to find all corners of the ground almost on command.
The former Yorkshireman also struck 78 in last year’s game, part of a partnership of 87 in just 7.1 overs with England star Roy.
Middlesex have named a 14-man squad for the game at Lord’s, with all of the international top four included – boasting nearly 1,000 T20Is alone.
Ravi Patel and Nathan Sowter will also fight it out for the spinner’s role, while James Franklin or Steven Finn can add even more big-game experience in the absence of Toby Roland-Jones, who is with England.
Tim Southee is expected to make his second appearance in a Middlesex shirt.
Middlesex squad: Brendon McCullum (captain), Tom Barber, Steven Finn, James Franklin, Tom Helm, Ryan Higgins, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Patel, George Scott, John Simpson (wicketkeeper), Paul Stirling, Tim Southee, Nathan Sowter
Surrey also play Kent in the Blast on Friday night, at home, and have named the same 15-man squad for both games.
Hand and calf injuries have respectively kept Kumar Sangakkara and Gareth Batty out of the team, but both return to the squad to add some vital experience.
Jade Dernbach and Tom Curran will look to continue their white-ball resurgence, though Kevin Pietersen has yet to join up with the squad.
Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (captain), Scott Borthwick, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Jade Dernbach, Aaron Finch, Ben Foakes, Stuart Meaker, Ollie Pope, Ravi Rampaul, Jason Roy, Kumar Sangakkara, Dominic Sibley, Mark Stoneman
Weather and conditions
With 27,000 heading to north London, the weather thankfully looks to be playing ball although there could be a little bit of cloud cover to aid the bowlers.
That could also cool down what could be a stifling evening, as the batsmen look to go big on a ground which saw nearly 400 runs last year.
Date: Thursday 13th July
Time: 6:15pm, live on Sky Sports
Odds: Middlesex 5/6, Surrey 5/6