A disciplined, canny bowling performance, complemented by a really fine run-chase innings from Aaron Finch, were the catalysts behind Surrey signing off their home Vitality Blast campaign with a win against Hampshire at The Oval, and keeping themselves, just about, in the hunt for a quarter final spot in the process.
Having bowled first and restricted the visitors to 133-7, the ‘Rey cruised to their target for the loss of only three wickets, with 15 balls to spare. The visitors looked mediocre in all departments and, having been out of contention for a top four spot for a while, their fans will surely not be too sad to see their Blast campaign drawing to an end.
After electing to set a target rather than chase one (maybe surmising the pitch wasn’t a belter), Hampshire produced a stumbling, stuttering effort with the bat. None of their top order was ever able to hit boundaries with regularity, and most of the wickets that fell were the results of soft shots rather than blistering pace or hooping swing from Surrey’s bowling unit. Sam Northeast was the only player to achieve a modicum of control and fluency, but even he could only manage essentially a run-a-ball effort of 37 from 36 deliveries; an effort hardly conducive to a mighty total.
Surrey’s bowlers simply did what they had to do in the circumstances, which was to keep things tight and await the inevitable hasty shot out of desperation. The experience of Rikki Clarke, Morne Morkel, Jade Dernbach and Gareth Batty all told too – no bowler got hit to an extent which would cause concern for a captain looking to shuffle the pack regularly as the wily foursome mixed up lines, lengths and pace.
Batty and Dernbach were particularly impressive, cramping batters for room and denying them any width to free their arms, snaring three wickets between them in the process. Indeed, one wonders how Surrey have managed to find themselves in this position of requiring others results to go their way to qualify when they have such abundant and experienced riches at their disposal – proof maybe that T20 really is about more than the sum of the parts.
Despite losing two early wickets when it came to the chase, one got the sense that Surrey only needed one of their big hitters to fire in order to turn this chase into a procession. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the off spinner who has perplexed and confused so many players throughout this year’s Blast, bowled Jason Roy round his legs, before Dale Steyn took the wicket of young Will Jacks, but all the while Finch was going about his business at the other end.
In some respects this was actually a very sensible, restrained innings from the bull-like Aussie, his 67 not out coming off 57 balls and featuring only one maximum. That probably reflected the must-win nature of the game, with Surrey knowing that a loss would immediately extinguish their slim chances of further progression in the Blast.
The partnership that won the game for the home side was an all-Australian affair, as Nic Maddinson joined his compatriot for a third wicket effort that brought 92 runs and snuffed the life out of Hampshire’s bowling. Having treated Liam Dawson and Chris Wood with respect – they went for a combined 30 off seven overs – the pair gorged themselves on all the other bowlers. This included Mujeeb and Steyn, the latter being hit for two towering sixes.
Hampshire didn’t help themselves in the field either, as they dropped two simple chances in the outfield which most club sides would expect to take.
As a top-edged four from Finch off Steyn’s bowling secured the victory, Surrey may reflect that if they had performed like this at other points during the group stage, they would not now be relying on results elsewhere.
However, now is not the time to worry about such matters, but instead to thank their stars that their big-name players did come to this particular party, and that their campaign is still alive.