When asked about the visitors’ dressing room at the Kia Oval during the World Cup earlier this year, South African coach Ottis Gibson gave this response: “We’re squeezed in there nice and tight, which is cool because we’ve been a tight-knit group for the last 18 months.”
While the Somerset team may or may not be as tight-knit as the South Africans (only those close to the dressing room will know) their destructive capabilities with the bat seem superior to that of the South African World Cup squad.
Somerset’s openers have scored 927 runs in ten innings at an average of 46.35 runs per dismissal. Across all editions of the Blast, no team’s two openers have averaged higher in a season.
In contrast, the Kia Oval has not been a fortress for Surrey. This year they have lost more T20 Blast matches there than they’ve won. But there is hope for the hosts: since winning the tournament at the famous old ground in 2005, Somerset have won only one T20 there.
When the two sides last met in the Blast, Surrey posted 203 for four after being put in. Aaron Finch hit 72 and Sam Curran made 53. In reply Somerset reached 207 for two after Tom Banton hit 71 and Eddie Byrom scored an unbeaten 54. With both line-ups packed with explosive batsmen, scores of 200 can be expected.
This is a must-win match for both sides if they hope to progress to the quarter finals. While Somerset are currently set to qualify in fourth place, they are separated from fifth placed Middlesex — who they play on Friday — by just net run-rate.
Surrey, who are eighth, require victory in their final two games, a significant net run-rate swing and other results going in their favour to stand a chance of qualifying.
Babar Azam and Tom Banton are currently the top run-scorers in the tournament. Babar has 541 runs to his name at an average of over 60 while Banton, who has been predicted to be the next Jos Buttler, has hit 440 runs including a maiden T20 ton. If either of them get going, Surrey’s tournament may well and truly be over.
Imran Tahir’s role in this game will be essential. The experienced South African international won’t be the only one running circles around the Oval in celebration if he can stem the run flow and take early wickets. Ollie Pope was on stand-by to play for the England Test team following his double century in the County Championship last week. Surrey will hope his good form will continue over all forms of the game.
Surrey squad: Jade Dernbach (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Jordan Clark, Rikki Clarke, Sam Curran, Aaron Finch, Will Jacks, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Mark Stoneman, Imran Tahir
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), Tom Banton (wk), Babar Azam, George Bartlett, Dom Bess, Eddie Byrom, James Hildreth, Tim Groenewald, Tom Lammonby, Craig Overton, Ollie Sale, Jerome Taylor, Roelof van der Merwe, Max Waller
Weather and Conditions
Temperatures are expected to hit 31 degrees so no interruptions are expected.
Date: 27th August 2019
Ground: The Kia Oval
Odds (SkyBet): Surrey 11/10, Somerset 8/11