Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: T20 heartache again as batting strategy backfires

Once again, T20 finals day ended in heartache for Surrey. The South Londoners have now been to seven since winning the inaugural competition in 2003, only to come away from all of them empty handed

In my preview, I made the observation that it was vital two batters forged a significant partnership. But, despite losing wickets, the Oval outfit stuck relentlessly to a strategy of trying to hit their way out of trouble in pursuit of Somerset’s 142.

So, a season in which Surrey posted four of their five biggest totals in T20 ended with nine batters falling to catches as the South Londoners slumped to 118 in the semis – their lowest T20 score in two years and their seventh worst all out total in the tournament’s history.

The absence of Sunil Narine was a huge blow but, ultimately, it made little difference against a Somerset side whose success in the format is based on bowling their opponents out – Matt Henry, with 31 scalps, and Ben Green, with 30, were the leading wicket-takers in this summer’s Blast.

While there were doubts as to the legitimacy of Lanky’s success in the mascot race – the replay revealing Lancashire’s mascot had stolen a five-yard head start – Somerset, who went on to win the final against Essex by 14 runs, are deserved T20 champions.

The Cidermen have also begun flexing their muscles in the County Championship, but the main challengers to Surrey’s crown are Warwickshire and Essex, who followed up their nine-wicket victory over Warwickshire with a dramatic 46-run success against Lancashire last week.

Not that long ago the Oval outfit’s advantage at the head of affairs was 32 points. But following a loss to Lancashire and a draw with Notts, just 13 points separates the Division One leaders and second-placed Essex.

A victory over relegation-threatened Middlesex in the current round of matches, which sees a return to the Dukes ball, is a must ahead of next week’s tricky trip to Taunton for another showdown with Somerset.

Gareth Batty, Surrey’s head coach, has criticised the decision to trial the Kookaburra ball in the championship, in line with the recommendation made in last year’s high performance review by Andrew Strauss, on behalf of the ECB.

Batty described it as a knee-jerk reaction to England’s defeat in Australia, against the Kookaburra ball, in 2021-22.

“It’s like saying next week, we’ve got to play with 10 men,” said Batty. “That seems silly to me. We don’t change the shape of the ball in football halfway through the season.”

The debate rumbes on over whether England should pick a specialist wicketkeeper or give the gloves to a batter who can keep wicket, but it’s no longer a choice between Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow and Surrey’s Ben Foakes.

Bairstow made just 12 and five in the last Test and continues to look a liability behind the stumps.

However, Somerset’s James Rew has thrown his hat into the ring by hitting yet another championship hundred against decent opposition. The 19-year-old now has five this season, more than anyone else – and is leading the race to be the first man to one thousand first-class runs.

If Rew continues scoring runs for fun, we may never know whether there’s any truth in the reports that Foakes isn’t seen as one of the boys due to being the only non-golfer in the England set-up.

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