Somerset return to the setting of one of their most infamous games in recent years this evening as they head to the Oval to play everyone’s least favourite team, Surrey, in an absolute must win game in the NatWest T20 Blast. Victory tonight would put Somerset above Surrey, and probably into third place above Glamorgan in the South Group (barring a very low scoring game), but defeat would all but eliminate the cider county from further progression.
It was on this ground that Somerset were knocked out in the QF stage on August 6th 2013 in a bad tempered match remembered for the disgraceful behaviour of Surrey captain Gareth Batty who decided to block the path of departing batsman Peter Trego before relaying a long line of abusive expletives at him in full view of those watching on TV. The Sky pundits immediately blamed Trego for the incident (well they would always back the Surrey player, wouldn’t they?) but had to humbly retract these allegations when Somerset supporters bombarded them with tweets and emails and they were forced to look again. Batty’s fine was to miss final’s day (very lenient in my opinion) and I can only speculate what would have been the penalty had he been captain of any other county side.
But that is a subplot only. Somerset failed to turn up on the night and were well beaten, scoring only 148-6 despite the heroics of Craig Kieswetter’s 70, and it was an embarrassing defeat with Surrey sailing past this total in 19 easy overs. Fortunately Surrey were eliminated at the semi-final stage, no doubt blaming the loss of their ‘inspirational’ captain as the defining reason.
When the two sides met at the County Ground in Taunton on May 18th live on TV it was Surrey who ran out the winners again this time by 14 runs. Who can forget the particularly annoying Jade Dernbach celebrating the victory as though his team had just won the Champions League? So if Nos does need to motivate his battle weary troops then the two most recent clashes and the league table should act as motivation enough. Let’s hope so.
Surrey go into the game against Somerset having lost their last match in the competition against Glamorgan. Somerset arrive at the Kia Oval having won their last two games, away against the Hampshire Royals and last Friday an exciting home win against the Gloucestershire Gladiators.
Somerset Director of Cricket Dave Nosworthy told the club’s official site on Tuesday: “It’s very important that we are up for the T20 game tomorrow night. All of the boys are tired and fatigued after a tough run of matches which has taken a lot out of the guys so they are going to have to dig deep on Wednesday. However they know that the next day is a breather before another match on Friday.
“I think pretty much that we will go into the game as the underdogs because the Surrey side are a strong outfit and they are above us in the table.
He added: “This is a must win for us so we have got to be up for it tomorrow night, which is quite exciting for us and no doubt there will be a massive crowd there, so let’s hope we can get out of it what we want.”
The away team will be weakened by the absence of star man Craig Kieswetter, who sustained eye and cheekbone injuries off a David Willey bouncer in the LVCC game against Northants. Kiessy has been in scintillating form with the bat and will be much missed. Marcus Trescothick returns to the T20 team after being dropped for the last game in this tournament due to poor form in the 20 over format but Alfonso will captain the side. Tres will almost certainly open the innings with Nick Compton.
Full squad (14): Alfonso Thomas (C), Marcus Trescothick, Alex Barrow (W), Nick Compton, George Dockrell, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Colin Ingram, Craig Meschede, Dirk Nannes, Craig Overton, Pete Trego, Max Waller
The home side welcomes Tillakaratne Dilshan into the squad following international duty for Sri Lanka against South Africa. Stuart Meaker is recalled but Tom Curran is unavailable due to injury.
Full squad (13): Gary Wilson (C), Zafar Ansari, Gareth Batty, Rory Burns, Steven Davies (W), Matthew Dunn, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Azhar Mahmood, Stuart Meaker, Robin Peterson, Kevin Pietersen, Chris Tremlett, Jason Roy
Key men: Somerset – Nick Compton & Surrey – Kevin Pietersen
This is the bit where I normally remove my brain and follow my heart and back Somerset to win whatever the situation. However I have to be brutally honest and say that, looking at the two squads, Surrey have an abundance of riches available to them and I really cannot see anything other than a win for the home team. Any one of Dilshan, Pietersen and Roy could fall cheaply and they still have power and talent to replace them. Somerset, on the other hand, are going to miss Kiessy immensely and will need the few big hitters available to come good. That means Tres and Tregs have to score heavily and Compo has to make the runs tick over from the off. Ingram has made a solid if unspectacular start to life as a Somerset player and I hope he rises to the occasion and gets a big score. Somerset will need it.