BY MARCUS HOOK
Ever since director of cricket Alec Stewart got stuck into his players – following Surrey’s fourth defeat in the Bob Willis Trophy – the Oval outfit have really bounced back.
The South London club’s winning run has coincided with the return of Rory Burns from international duty.
Stewart, talking a month ago, said: “I am not about losing, but everyone at this club – and I mean everyone, including me – now need to reflect on this. What we are producing on the field is nowhere near the levels we expect from ourselves; and that is why we’ve played four and lost four.”
Eight successive victories later, seven of which have catapulted Surrey into the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast, and they are determined to carry the momentum they’ve built up into the business end of the truncated 2020 season.
“It’s a bit strange that we’ve got a week off now,” said Burns. “But it’s nice to see all the boys back in form. We’ve got on a bit of a roll and we want to stay on a roll. What do they say? Don’t flirt with form. We’re doing just that and the way we’re going about our cricket is really pleasing.”
A confident six-wicket victory over Kent in their final group game has produced a rematch with the hop county at the Oval on October 1, the winner of which will face either Gloucestershire or Northants in the semis.
Kent had no answer to Jason Roy and Laurie Evans’s fireworks – the pair’s second wicket stand of 135 in just 14 overs pointing the way to yet another successful chase last Sunday.
“Both Jason and Laurie played fantastically well – the way they batted was outstanding,” said Burns. “Laurie has been in great form for most of the group stage and now to see Jason Roy back is brilliant for us.
“Laurie’s been striking the ball really nicely and to see J-Roy doing J-Roy things again is very nice.”
Just as satisfying for Burns, who has taken the reins as T20 captain from Gareth Batty, was the performance of Surrey’s bowling unit – in particular Liam Plunkett, who is active again following a hamstring pull.
“Liam was excellent with the ball, which really helps me as I am an inexperienced captain in this format,” said Burns. “He used the surface and the boundaries really nicely and got rewarded for it.
“To be in charge in T20 – it’s not something I expected to be doing. I was just enjoying batting with a bit of freedom in the middle order and running around in the outfield.
“But we bowled quite nicely. Kent had a partnership in the middle that was threatening to get them up to where they needed to be, so the way we came back at the end to keep them under par was pretty crucial.
“The surfaces here at the Oval suit our side and our style of play and Kent 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 – though that’s not to take anything away from J-Roy and Laurie.
“The important thing is we have a home tie. That’s what we wanted. It doesn’t really matter who it is we play. We are winning games at home in T20, and that’s the most important thing.”
Reflecting on the bonus of a six-wicket victory in Surrey’s final Bob Willis Trophy game, over Sussex, Burns said: “Results didn’t go our way in four-day cricket this year, so for me to come back in and see the guys perform the way they did was also very pleasing.
“I heard they were all working hard to put things right, so it was nice to finally put it together over four days.”
Burns’ 103 and 52 were instrumental in making amends in the Bob Willis Trophy closer.
He said: “It was a pretty placid pitch early on, but it sped up and started taking spin. So, batting last, it was very pleasing to come out the right side.
“It was nice to have the captain’s armband back actually and it was obviously nice to then chip in with some runs.
“It was nice to be back at the Oval, definitely, and to have a hit here. I felt good. It helped that I got a few balls in my area and to get away to a little bit of a flier.
“As a group, we’re very clear about how we want to play, particularly at home. So, now, it’s about continuing to take all that momentum forward.”
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