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Alan Gardner at The Oval
July 3, 2013
Surrey 139 for 6 (Wilson 44*) beat Sussex 136 for 8 (Styris 46) by three runs
It is one of the general maxims of Twenty20 that the team which hits the most sixes tends to win. When Scott Styris struck a ball from Azhar Mahmood that described a perfect parabola out towards long leg, Sussex had their third maximum of the night and their noses in front, 14 runs required from the final 12 balls.
The next delivery Styris faced was from Jade Dernbach and uprooted two of his stumps. Dernbach's over went for just two runs - and completed match-turning figures of 4-0-18-2 - as Sussex were left with too much to scramble off the last six balls. On the opening night of the tournament, Surrey had failed to defend exactly the same score of 139 for 6 against Hampshire; they have now won three games in a row and sit atop the South Group.
This format has caused much angst for Surrey in recent times. They were one of the prime movers in next year's shaking up of the T20 competition, their chief executive, Richard Gould, calling publically for a spread-out tournament on regular nights of the week. This was Surrey's first home fixture of the 2013 FLt20 and, coupled with the first appearance of Ricky Ponting at The Oval - as Surrey player rather than pantomime villain - a decent crowd of 11,984 grazed happily throughout.
Creating atmosphere in Test grounds, where the unfilled seats can be hard to disguise and the hubbub evaporates away rather than wrapping itself around the players, is one of the challenges for domestic T20 in England. Surrey do as good a job as any, though - The Oval is a half-full, rather than half-empty, kind of ground - and one fan became the first lucky recipient of £1000 for taking a 'Kia catch', when Dwayne Smith clubbed Zander de Bruyn into the stands.
That over cost 22 but, Styris' efforts apart, the Surrey bowlers succeeded in stifling Sussex in pursuit of a middling target for the second time in a week. On that evidence alone, it might be difficult to tell which of these two teams has been to Finals Day three times in the last six years and which has not got past the group stage since 2006.
It is easy to spot a weakness in Surrey's set-up, however. Steven Davies is the only batsman to score a half-century in four matches and their innings had an enervated, midweek feel to it; Thursday may be the new Friday in London but Wednesday is still the hump. Three of the top six picked out fielders on the fence with iron shots when a driver was needed and it wasn't until the 15th over that Gary Wilson hit their first six, driving Will Beer emphatically over long-on.
Wilson provided the vim Surrey needed, with reverse-sweeps, hard running and the odd Thor-like hammer blow, including another six off the final ball of the innings. Jason Roy was the only other Surrey player to get more than 13 and he flourished initially with several punishing cross-bat shots, as well as one thumping drive that knocked over the umpire, Trevor Jesty, who was hit on the shoulder. Jesty may be 65 but he waved away the stretcher before ambling to square leg for the next over and Surrey, in the end, weren't left to rue the boundary that might have been.
Of course, making a success of T20 financially is a lot easier if you're making a success of it on the field. This match was really the appetiser for the London derby against Middlesex on Friday, when Surrey are hopeful of attracting a full house. Another last-ball finish - and another victory - will also be on the wish list.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Alan Gardner
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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