Feature

Will Jacks of all trades gives Surrey an edge in bid for overdue Blast title

Powerful batsman has crucial second string to aid club in Finals Day challenge

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
02-Oct-2020
Will Jacks has played a vital role for Surrey with the new ball  •  Getty Images

Will Jacks has played a vital role for Surrey with the new ball  •  Getty Images

Anyone who caught the headlines when Will Jacks blitzed a 25-ball hundred in a pre-season T10 game against Lancashire in March 2019 - an innings which included hitting Stephen Parry for six sixes in an over - would perhaps be unsurprised to learn that 18 months later he would be playing a key role in Surrey's progression to Blast Finals Day. But to discover he has fulfilled just as important a role with the ball as with the bat might raise an eyebrow.
Jacks of all trades sounds like a back-handed compliment, but there is no doubting the value of such allrounders in T20 cricket - even if he still refers to himself as a purveyor of "part-time spin". A career-best four-wicket haul in Surrey's quarter-final stroll against Kent suggested his innocuous-looking offies are perfectly serviceable, as do 10 wickets and an economy of 6.29 in the competition, despite bowling almost half of his overs in the Powerplay.
Giving the new ball to a spinner might be nothing new in limited-overs cricket but for Jacks, who had played full Blast campaigns in 2018 and 2019 but only delivered three overs previously, it has been an opportunity to relish.
"I've absolutely loved it," he said after helping Surrey to seal victory on Thursday. "It's something completely different, I don't feel like there's too much pressure on me - to be chucked the ball in the second over, you're almost expecting to get hit, bowling part-time spin in the Powerplay."
Jacks' ability to contribute four overs while also batting in the top order adds to a versatile-looking Surrey side, who can also call on Dan Moriarty - third on the Blast's wicket-taking list - and the experienced Gareth Batty in the spin department, backed up by a variety of seam options: left-armer Reece Topley, former England siege engine Liam Plunkett, and the express pace of Jamie Overton.
"I was lucky things went my way today," Jacks said. "Moz [Moriarty] has taken a lot of the wickets in the group stages but, as a unit, all of us spinners went really well. It was a professional performance all round, we had our plans and we executed them well.
"My role, home and away this season, has been to bowl the second over and see how it goes from there so obviously I would expect to keep on doing that now. The last few years, the pitches at Edgbaston have spun as the day's gone on, so hopefully we can go there and continue to play as we have done in the past few weeks."
With the bat, Jacks has been Surrey's second-leading run-scorer, with 290 at a strike rate of 151.04, although he admitted to feeling "underused" after shifting down to No. 4 against Kent. He could not argue with the opening partnership Surrey were able to deploy, however. "When you have Jason Roy and Hashim Amla [available], you can't really complain about the top two," he said.
It was Jacks who helped provide the spark for Surrey back at the start of September, when his 31-ball 45 secured a nine-wicket DLS win over Hampshire - their first of this hemmed-in summer of county cricket, ending a run of four Bob Willis Trophy losses, followed by a defeat, a no-result and a tie in the Blast.
That kick-started Surrey's run of eight T20 wins in a row (as well a consolation victory in the BWT), and enabled them to head to their first Finals Day appearance in six years in buoyant mood. While Saturday's spectacle at Edgbaston will be some way removed from the traditional longest-day-in-cricket beano - with no crowds allowed in and a bleak weather forecast - Jacks and his team-mates will be throwing themselves into the task of trying to bring the trophy back south, with Surrey having not won the title since the inaugural Twenty20 Cup back in 2003.
"I'm really excited for it," he said. "Everyone knows it's a day to look forward to in the English calendar, the best day of the season if you get there. Unfortunately there'll be no [fans] there, it's kind of weird no one being there to watch. But we've done that all here so we're used to it, and if we could go and win that would be amazing. After the start of the season we had, we're really pleased how we've bounced back in the last month. To win the tournament would top it off.
"It's weird for a club of our calibre [not having lifted the trophy since 2003]. It's like, before we won the Championship two years ago, I think it was 16 years since that era of Adam Hollioake being captain. The club's probably underperformed in that period, since T20 began and we won that first season. So to be back at Finals Day is brilliant for the club and where we need to be, as a big club, and really exciting. To get to the final would be unbelievable."

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick