BY MARCUS HOOK
Two Aaron Finch-inspired victories have seen Surrey haul themselves up from bottom to fourth in the South Division of the T20 Blast.
The turnaround in their fortunes is such that they now boast the best net run rate – cricket’s equivalent to goal difference – of any team in their group.
All-rounder Rikki Clarke, who hit an unbeaten 48 off 20 balls in the 39-run success over Essex last Thursday, said: “We played some decent cricket in our first two games but didn’t quite get over the line. We should have beaten Kent and we could also have won at Lord’s, against Middlesex.
“But tonight was an excellent performance, with Aaron Finch and Ben Foakes getting us into a good early position to push on. We thought 200 was around par on that pitch and, sometimes, when you aim for 200 you can go beyond it.”
Surrey eventually made 222-4 – their second-highest T20 total ever.
“Having Finchy back at the top of the order is great because he gives us so much confidence as a team with the starts he has given us over the last two seasons,” said Clarke.
With Mat Pillans and Gareth Batty sharing the spoils with the ball against Essex, Clarke added: “Gaz also bowled brilliantly in the middle overs and enabled us to push their asking rate right up.”
The following night Finch hit a brilliant 131 not out – the highest T20 score by a Surrey batsman – to end Sussex Sharks’ unbeaten start to the Blast, with a thumping 52-run win at Hove.
Badly dropped by Jofra Archer on 1, Finch made the most of his reprieve with a brutal assault on the hosts’ attack as he struck 10 fours and seven sixes from just 79 balls.
With 61 being plundered off the last five overs he helped the Oval outfit, who were put into bat, to 192-3, a total Sussex never looked like overhauling on a pitch offering seam movement and uneven bounce.
Opener Phil Salt made 74 in the reply, but the next highest scorer was Archer’s 18 as the Sharks were skittled out for just 140.
AN OVER OF STATS
Ball 1 – Aaron Finch’s 131 not out against Sussex last Friday is now highest individual T20 score for Surrey, beating Jason Roy’s unbeaten 122 versus Somerset, at the Oval in 2015.
Ball 2 – It was also the sixth T20 hundred by a Surrey batsman; or should that be two Surrey batsmen, given that only Finch and Roy have reached three figures for them in Twenty20 cricket?
Ball 3 – Both of Surrey’s victories in this season’s Vitality Blast have come after batting first. It now means just two out of the Oval Outfit’s last 17 wins in T20 cricket have resulted from successful chases.
Ball 4 – The 222-4 against Essex, last Thursday, was not only Surrey’s second highest T20 total and their best ever at the Oval, but was also just two runs shy of equalling their own record 224, against Gloucestershire at Bristol in 2006.
Ball 5 – Coincidentally, both of Surrey’s highest totals in T20 cricket have seen Rikki Clarke apply the icing on the cake. In 2006, at Bristol, he hit 79 not out off 42 balls; and in last week’s victory over Essex his contribution was an unbeaten 48 not out in only 20 deliveries.
Ball 6 – Just 11 days into the T20 Blast and every team has now lost at least once. At the other end of the spectrum, Hampshire (in the South) and Derbyshire and Northants (in the North Division) are yet to get off the mark.