Once again, The Kia Oval will be sold out for a Vitality Blast clash on Thursday night, meaning all five of Surrey’s games have been full to the rafters. Another win for the competition — which continues to grow this summer — and for Surrey’s marketing and ticketing departments.
But what those who populate the stands would give for a little less success at the turnstiles and a little more success on the hallowed turf. They have seen just one victory at the famous old ground, and the most loyal travellers will have seen a second — both against winless Glamorgan.
Others? Only in a video game, or the wildest of imaginations. This has been a dire summer for Surrey entirely, with just five wins in any format since they claimed the Specsavers County Championship title last September. No team has so few this campaign, let alone when you incorporate the end of the last one.
Bully for Sussex, whose lowest moment in this competition so far came when Surrey stole a tie on the south coast. Through eight games, they are yet to taste defeat. All is rosy at the top of the table.
Indeed, since Jason Gillespie’s arrival at the start of last season, the Shark attack has been vicious. Just four defeats — including the final — have cemented them as one of the strongest T20 sides in the country. Their batting has been electric and destructive, their bowling fierce and relentless.
Sussex will smell blood when they arrive in south London, and so too they should. Although sport so often surprises, so often sees the underdog triumph, one suspects Jade Dernbach’s men will need a bigger boat.
Surrey’s use of Ben Foakes has been curious in the Blast. He batted at number five in his last outing, began the season at four, and in between times at Lord’s was hidden at number eight. On three occasions, Tom Curran has been promoted ahead of Foakes. The impression it makes is that Surrey do not see him as much of a power-hitter. There may well be logic behind that, but Foakes is one of the club’s most talented batsmen, is clearly capable of finding the boundary — aerially or otherwise — and is lightning quick between the wickets. Surrey have struggled in every department and need their batting to fire, and giving Foakes more time in the middle will only help.
Phil Salt has proven how lethal he can be this season. He has three half-centuries to his name and three single figure scores from his seven innings — get him early, or he will hurt the opposition. Hampshire, Kent and Glamorgan have been on the receiving end of his big hitting, with the lowest strike rate among his three fifties 143. His partnership with Luke Wright at the top of the order makes a terrifying sight for bowlers. Salt was in the England T20I squad against Pakistan in May, and although he went unused it is easy to see why he is in international contention: he can effortlessly take the game away from teams, and Sussex will want to see more of his magic against Surrey.
Surrey are boosted by the return of Sam Curran, who was released on Thursday after not being selected for the second Ashes Test. He adds to an otherwise unchanged squad.
Surrey squad: Jade Dernbach (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Jordan Clark, Rikki Clarke, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Aaron Finch, Will Jacks, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Mark Stoneman, Imran Tahir, Amar Virdi
Sussex name an unchanged 14 man squad from their trip to Middlesex.
Sussex squad: Luke Wright (c), Alex Carey (wk), Will Beer, Danny Briggs, Laurie Evans, Harry Finch, Chris Jordan, Rashid Khan, Tymal Mills, Delray Rawlins, Ollie Robinson, Phil Salt, Reece Topley, David Wiese
Form (most recent first)
Weather and conditions
Sunny intervals with temperatures in the low 20s should make for a pleasant evening in South London. Surrey may prefer a slow wicket to nullify Sussex’s crop of fast bowlers, given their own lack of express pace.
Date: 15th August 2019
Ground: The Kia Oval
Odds (SkyBet): Surrey 1/1, Sussex 4/5