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Roy's pyrotechnic ton in vain for Surrey

Surrey 212 for 4 (Roy 120, Finch 79) beat Kent 175 for 7 (Northeast 59) by 37 runs
Scorecard

To be at The Oval on Friday night, with a sell-out of close to 25,000 enraptured by the brilliant brutality of Jason Roy, it seemed incongruous to consider that England's domestic T20 is a tournament deemed to be in need of a rapid overhaul.

No county does T20 better than Surrey. This typically boisterous crowd took Surrey's total attendance for their seven home T20s to over 140,000, and the revenue these games have raised to over £4 million: both figures are records. On this night the crowd's only gripe was the rain at Chelmsford, which eliminated Surrey, but, as they belted out renditions of Will Grigg's on Fire in between the Icelandic football clap, no one seemed remotely perturbed.

Whatever the future of English domestic T20, it will be all the better if it involves plenty more innings like this from Roy. While the Rhythm of the Night blared out, Roy's thunderous hitting was again the rhythm of the night at The Oval.

In this mood, Roy has the swagger of a villain in a Western, brazenly bestriding his turf, ready to shoot down anyone with the effrontery to challenge him. Or so it seemed as he greeted James Tredwell's offspin with a huge straight six then, as if insulted by how easy it had all been, promptly launched the bowler over wide long-on, the longest boundary.

When Roy thrashed a full toss down the ground to bring up his fourth T20 century, off 51 balls, he removed his helmet, giving off the air of a gladiator appreciating the crowd's acclaim.

For all its destruction, this was an innings defined by far more than raw power. There was impudent improvisation too - reverse-scooping Darren Stevens over short third man for four, or waltzing across his stumps to lift the ball over the keeper. There was also ample evidence of Roy's maturity as a batsman, the brain to go with his brawn. He scored off all but nine of the 62 deliveries he faced, a dot-ball percentage of just 14.5%. To put that into context, 40% of deliveries in the World T20 were dots.

With Roy in this mood Aaron Finch, the world's second-ranked T20I batsman, was relegated to the status of B-list support act; on most nights the violence underpinning Finch's 79 would have been befitting something rather more. If the two did not quite break the records they threatened to - they fell five runs short of the English record partnership for any wicket and 14 short of the all-time record opening stand in T20 cricket - their 187 did break Kent.

When Gareth Batty fired a delivery down the leg side after seeing Sam Billings giving him the charge, and Roy claimed Stevens, diving at full length after running in from the extra cover boundary, soon after, Surrey's cruise to victory was assured.

Yet it had all come too late to secure qualification for the quarter-finals. For the second consecutive season Surrey's financial clout had failed to yield progress beyond the group stages.

"We've put on an absolute spectacle tonight and showed what we're capable of," a downcast Roy said. "That's the most disappointing thing - there were some crucial game we should have won, but we didn't show that grit and determination."

At a time when the teams who take part in England's elite T20 competition face being determined by ground size rather than on-field performance, some would see Surrey's failure as a reminder of the need to keep the principle of meritocracy at the heart of the domestic English game.

The debate will rumble on, long after the last remnants of spilled beer have been cleaned from The Oval's stands.