It’s no coincidence that, as the most phenomenal of British heatwaves continues, as does the run-plundering. These rock-hard surfaces really do not suit bowlers bending their backs, to only then have to bend their necks as yet another ball goes sailing over their head for six.
It would be quite reasonable to expect possibly all of the batting records between the two sides to be broken tonight. Somerset’s highest total v Surrey is 189-4 at Taunton in 2016 and for Surrey it is 208-1 at the Oval in 2015.
The highest individual innings for Somerset is 86* by Johann Myburgh at the Cooper Associates County Ground in 2017, and for Surrey it is 122* by Jason Roy at the Oval in 2015.
Surrey’s three-day win over Notts in a rare mid-summer County Championship match this weeks sees them retain top spot well ahead of Somerset in second. Confidence is flowing through the veins of the Surrey squad, most of whom play all forms for their county.
Somerset eventually beat Worcestershire at Blackfinch New Road, but not after a record-breaking 10th-wicket partnership from Alex Milton and Steve Magoffin kept them toiling in the heat for far more hours than they should have been on Wednesday afternoon.
Now back to T20 focus for the next 22 days which see the group stages completed. Currently Somerset sit third in the South Group with six points, whilst Surrey are fifth with five points, both from five matches played.
A large number of Blast fixtures tonight could see a big change in the standings. Sussex are currently Somerset and Surrey’s main rivals for progression from the South Group. A bowling strike-force of Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan, David Wiese and Olly Robinson strikes fear into even the hardest of batsmen. They have a game in hand on Somerset above them and the Sharks could go top, depending on Gloucestershire’s results tonight, if they beat Kent.
Since T20 cricket was first played within our shores in 2003, the two sides have played against each other 13 times, Somerset have won three of the matches, Surrey eight and two of the fixtures have been abandoned.
Aaron Finch is in the form of his life, he seems to get more runs batting in England than in his native Australia. Having been just shy of Chris Gayle’s all-time T20 personal score record the other week (172 & 175 respectively), he scored 131* against Sussex and 83 runs off 28 balls v Kent, consquently forcing his way into Surrey’s Championship side. With Morne Morkel now a Kolpak player, Surrey can have three recent international stars in their 11. Nic Maddison has only made double figures once in his three Blast matches so far, but currently such is Finch’s form he’s filling two players’ boots with bat in hand.
I never thought I would say this, but the non-turning, often long-hop and full toss bowler Max Waller is arguably Somerset’s key man at the moment. The dry conditions provide him more turn when he lands it, and to be fair to the leggie, his 100 wickets worth of T20 experience have seen him increasingly land it more consistently. And whilst still fresh-faced and teenage looking, the now 30-year-old spinner is still a gun fielder often seen hurtling around County outfields.
Although recently called up to the England Test squad for the India series starting next week, Sam Curran has permission to play tonight. His brother Tom returns along with Jason Roy having both missed all five matches so far due to a combination of injuries and England commitments.
Expect Van den Bergh, Pillans and Jacks to miss out, whilst perhaps the harshest omissions would be that of Rory Burns. Despite his remarkable Championship run-scoring record of recent years, the opener is still yet to receive full England honours, being most recently overlooked just yesterday for the India Test series squad. More a classical stroke-maker, he may be better off concentrating on red-ball cricket than battling losing his shape to hit big in T20s.
Surrey squad: Jade Dernbach (c), Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Rory Burns, Rikki Clarke, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Aaron Finch, Ben Foakes (wk), Will Jacks, Nic Maddinson, Mat Pillans, Ollie Pope, Jason Roy, Freddie van den Bergh.
West Indian quick Jerome Taylor is in line to make his debut, having recently signed as Somerset’s second overseas player for the T20 Blast. Depending on the pitch conditions it’s likely one of Somerset’s seamers, probably Josh Davey, will be omitted for Taylor’s inclusion. The other omission is more difficult to call, it could possibly be Championship captain Tom Abell to make way, if there are no late injury concerns, most other players seem undroppable. Similar to Burns, Abell is more suited to the longer forms of the game, though he has done little wrong in white-ball cricket this year, such are Somerset’s one-day resources, Kerr is spoilt for choice.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell, Corey Anderson, Josh Davey, Steve Davies (wk), Lewis Gregory (c), James Hildreth, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Jerome Taylor, Peter Trego, Roelof van der Merwe, Max Waller.
Weather and Conditions
Surrey were unfortunate that half-time rain ruined what would have surely been a comfortable victory having scored 250 at home to Kent last time out. There are threats of a sharp thunderstorm hitting the capital tonight, but the closer we get to start time the less chance the forecast are giving this storm of affecting the match.
#FurnaceFriday’s 30-degree heat today will continue baking the concrete Oval wickets, thus neither side will ever be sure any score is enough batting first.
Date: 27th August 2018
Ground: The Oval
Odds (SkyBet): Surrey 8/13, Somerset 5/4