Derbies are among the most anticipated fixtures of any season, and while Surrey against Middlesex may be dwarfed in that category by the Roses clash later this week, few occasions excite in south London more than this.
When London Spirit play the team based at The Oval in The Hundred next season, it seems unlikely the same buzz will ensue. This rivalry has 370 games of history behind it.
Last season’s clash was one for the ages: Paul Stirling struck a century as Middlesex racked up 221, before Surrey strolled to a nine-wicket victory with four overs remaining thanks to a monstrous innings from Aaron Finch. He ended unbeaten on 117 and it would be unsurprising if the Middlesex attack still awoke in a cold sweat from nightmares.
A repeat of last year’s carnage should not be expected, but it is difficult to rule it out in a game featuring Finch and AB de Villiers.
The two sides have begun this Vitality Blast campaign in wildly contrasting ways. Middlesex toppled Essex at Lord’s thanks to a de Villiers special, while the Chelmsford outfit demolished Surrey thanks to Cameron Delport’s 129 from 49 balls.
Surrey have the upper hand historically, with 20 wins to Middlesex’s 10, but the Blast can throw up all sorts of surprises — especially on nights like these.
Surrey supporters would have been torn by the news of Jason Roy’s Test call: proud of their player’s rise but disappointed to lose one of their most explosive batsmen for the duration of the Blast. His partnership with Finch in this fixture last year was a thing of bludgeoning beauty. So a packed Oval crowd will be buoyed by the sight of Will Jacks, the 20-year-old, opening instead alongside Finch. Jacks has a T10 hundred under his belt — it came in 25 balls and featured six sixes in an over from Stephen Parry — and took 29 from eight deliveries against Essex on Friday. His will be a prized early wicket such is his capability for destruction.
How different the last two months might have been had Cricket South Africa accepted AB de Villiers’ offer to reverse his international retirement for the World Cup. As fate would have it, he got to bat on the pitch used for the final — just for Middlesex instead of his country. He prospered too, accelerating remarkably from 17 off 15 balls to end unbeaten on 88 from 43, guiding Middlesex to victory over Essex. The club have staked much of their hopes for Blast success on his signing for the first seven matches, and few in world cricket need a reminder of his capabilities. He lit up a sold out Lord’s on Thursday and later claimed he didn’t feel he was at his best. More brutality could follow.
Surrey are without Roy, Rory Burns and Sam Curran, all of whom are with England ahead of Wednesday’s Test against Ireland. Ollie Pope is named in a squad for the first time since dislocating his shoulder in April, having made his first appearance for the 2nd XI against Gloucestershire on Monday. Mark Stoneman joins the squad, as does Liam Plunkett, with Morne Morkel rested.
Surrey squad: Jade Dernbach (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Jordan Clark, Rikki Clarke, Tom Curran, Aaron Finch, Will Jacks, Ryan Patel, Liam Plunkett, Ollie Pope, Mark Stoneman, Imran Tahir
Eoin Morgan remains on an enforced break after his involvement in the World Cup, while Paul Stirling — Middlesex’s centurion in the game last year — is away with Ireland. He is replaced in the squad by Max Holden.
Middlesex squad: Dawid Malan (c), John Simpson (wk), Tom Barber, AB de Villiers, Stephen Eskinazi, Steven Finn, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Tom Helm, Max Holden, Toby Roland-Jones, George Scott, Nathan Sowter, Mujeeb ur Rahman
Form (most recent first)
Weather and Conditions
No flamethrowers required — the heat will be on The Oval all day with temperatures of 32 Celsius at the start, dropping only just below 30 by late evening. Expect a good surface for Surrey’s biggest T20 home match.
Date: 23rd July 2019
Ground: The KIA Oval
Odds: (SkyBet): Surrey 4/5, Middlesex 1/1