BY MARCUS HOOK
Jason Roy says the personal disappointment of reaching three T20 finals days, only for Surrey to walk away empty handed, will fire him on to make certain that tomorrow’s doesn’t become a fourth.
Roy, who hit a 47-ball 66 when the Oval outfit last reached the final of the Blast three years ago, has missed much of Surrey’s 2023 campaign due to a calf strain. But in their last two matches the 32-year-old has contributed 28 against Essex, in the concluding group match, and a vital half-century in last week’s 13-run quarter-final win over Lancashire.
“We’ve been to finals day before and experienced our fair share of disappointments, but those experiences will hold us in good stead,” says Roy.
“Beating Lancashire, it still feels like the job is only half done. We’re at finals day, but we’re only halfway there.
“It’s absolutely amazing to be going to finals day again, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Off the back of losing a few games and playing some pretty poor cricket, to go to Old Trafford, especially in front of that crowd, and put together a performance in an away fixture like that was outstanding.”
Surrey posted 187-5 after winning the toss, with Laurie Evans hitting 70 and Roy a 34-ball fifty. Lancashire, in reply, appeared to be on course for victory until Chris Jordan bowled Steven Croft for 55 in the 19th over.
“We needed to right a lot of wrongs,” added Roy.
“We hadn’t quite got it right in a few of the games leading into it, and we had a good, honest conversation – batters and bowlers. We made a few mistakes in the field, so we need to brush up on that. But that was as close as we’ve come to a perfect performance.
“I didn’t think it was a particularly good boundary hitting pitch – you had to kind of find your boundaries. But I think we were pretty happy with 187 at the halfway stage.
“With the ball, I think having lost our last few games held us in good stead, because we didn’t rest on our laurels.
“We went out and tried every over to take a wicket or restrict them as much as possible. So, in a weird way, those losses actually benefited us.
“Credit to CJ [Chris Jordan] for putting his hand up in the penultimate over to give Sabba [Sean Abbot] a bit of a cushion in the last. Croft’s was a crucial wicket as well, which is always great.”
Handy fella to have in your side: Michael Pepper, who tops Essex’s Blast batting averages.
Bat or bowl first? Bowl (with a T20 win percentage this season of 75 per cent, compared with 43 per cent batting first).
Despite only finishing fourth in the South Group, Essex pulled off a major surprise by beating Birmingham Bears, the North Group’s finest, in the quarters. This will be Essex’s first visit to finals day since winning the competition in 2019.
Prediction: If someone pops up with a 70 or even an 80 with the bat, Essex could well be in business.
Top man: James Vince, the leading run-scorer in this year’s Blast with 657 in 10 innings.
Handy fella to have in your side: John Turner, arguably the competition’s breakthrough player and the most economical bowler this term (6.44 runs per over).
Bat or bowl first? Bowl (83 per cent win percentage, in contrast to 56 per cent when batting first).
The defending champions used to be called the Royals, now they’re the Hawks. But their record in terms of reaching the last four marks them out as T20 royalty. Champions three times and losing semi-finalists on six occasions since 2010.
Prediction: Hampshire have never lost in the final, so if they overcome Essex be afraid, be very afraid.
Top man: Will Smeed, who has hit five fifties in this summer’s T20 and made his runs at a rate of 179 per 100 balls.
Handy fella to have in your side: Ben Green, the leading wicket-taker in the Blast with 27.
Bat or bowl first? Bat (Somerset are yet to be beaten when they’ve batted first this term – bowling first 80 per cent).
The Cidermen have been the standout team in this year’s Twenty20, with 13 victories and just two defeats, their only losses coming against Hampshire and Surrey. Since winning the competition in 2005, Somerset have reached four finals, losing all of them.
Prediction: Just three of the side that beat Notts in the quarters were risked in the County Championship this week, which suggests they mean business.
Top man: Will Jacks – As well as being the leading six-hitter in this year’s Blast, with 31, just four batters have made more runs.
Handy fella to have in your side: Sunil Narine, who averages 22.25 with the bat and 22.85 with the ball.
Bat or bowl first? Bowl (Surrey won 67 per cent bowling first this year, compared with 58 per cent batting first).
Since claiming the first ever T20 title in 2003, the South Londoners have been to six finals days, only to be thwarted. Even in T20, a team, like Surrey, that swings with the bat all the way down, still needs two batters to forge a significant partnership. So, avoiding a collapse will be key for the Oval outfit.
Prediction: They’ll either end up being a losing semi-finalist or the 2023 champions.
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