BY MARCUS HOOK
Surrey stormed into the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast with a six-wicket victory over Kent yesterday (Sunday).
Jason Roy returned to form with 72 and Laurie Evans hit a magnificent 45-ball 73 as the Oval outfit clinched top spot in the South Group thanks to a sequence of seven successive victories – their best run in T20 cricket for 16 years.
The win, which was sealed with eight balls to spare, condemned Kent to an away draw, which, after the dust fell on the group phase and all the calculations were done, requires the two sides to go toe-to-toe again on October 1.
The winner of the Surrey-Kent rematch will face either Gloucestershire or Northants in the semi-finals at Edgbaston two days later.
Surrey captain Rory Burns said: “The important thing is that we have a home tie. That’s what we wanted when we came into today and it doesn’t really matter who it is we play.
“The surfaces here at the Oval suit our side and our style of play and on the pitch today they were probably about 15 runs light. We bowled extremely well to limit them to that score at the end and that made the chase a little bit easier.”
Knowing his side could lose the final group game but still qualify as South Group winners, Burns opted to field first, so that the hosts would have two run targets when it came to chasing Kent’s 159-8.
Their first task was to score 127, and thus guarantee a better net run rate than Kent, and a superb second wicket stand of 135 in 14 overs between Roy and Evans saw them cruise to that initial target with more than five overs left in the bank.
Earlier, England’s Sam Billings hit six fours in a 32-ball fifty for Kent, who were pegged back by Liam Plunkett’s skilful 3-19.
But the day belonged to Roy and Evans who, by the time their partnership reached three figures, were both batting majestically.
Roy, understandably given his recent battles with fitness and form, took a while to get going but a reverse slap for four off Fred Klaassen in the last over of the powerplay – plus further fours thrashed through the covers later in the same over – provided the England one-day opener with a surge of confidence that he then took into the rest of his innings.
Evans, much enjoying his return to Surrey after transferring from Sussex last month, was straight into his work after Joe Denly’s leg spin had lured Will Jacks into hitting straight to long off on 4 in the third over.
All Kent’s bowlers were dispatched with apparent ease as he raced to his half-century in 34 balls – completing the fifty with a six swung over wide mid-wicket off Denly.
There were also massive sixes over extra cover off both Matt Milnes and Grant Stewart before Evans, who also struck nine fours, played on to his stumps with just 12 more runs needed for victory.
Between now and October 1, Surrey will push for members to attend the quarter-final; as they did for the Vitality Blast group match against Hampshire just over a fortnight ago.
The club has issued the following statement: “We are well aware of the constantly changing epidemiological situation and will await guidance from central and local government before making a final announcement.”
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