Yesterday we looked at the first two teams to grace the field of Edgbaston during tomorrow’s T20 Finals Day – although they might only be gracing it as part of the process of being airlifted to safety due to the combination of a little bit of rain and incredibly bad drainage – so no prizes for guessing what we’re looking at today. It’s time for defending champions Hampshire and the playboy millionaires of Surrey.
And before anyone writes in to ask: yes, Editor Steve is a Hampshire fan, in case that doesn’t come across from his comments.
Hampshire (Editor Steve)
Quite simply, they’re the best team. The reigning champions cruised through what has historically been the strongest group (and which indeed provides three of the four Finals Day qualifiers) with only a shock defeat to Kent in the losses column, and they completed a very comfortable double over their semi-final opponents Surrey (whom they also beat in the YB40 earlier this week).
At the top of the order, they have Michael Carberry – if you’ve not watched him bat this season, what the hell have you been doing? He’s been in incredible form, averaging 62 from his 10 innings, with James Vince, Jimmy Adams and Sean Ervine contributing big runs when necessary alongside him. Meanwhile, a man whose Test pedigree would suggest he’s not really cut out for this T20 malarkey, Neil McKenzie, has the quite frankly ridiculous average of 148 this year, having only actually been dismissed twice in seven innings.
With the ball, Danny Briggs, Liam Dawson, Chris Wood and Adrian Mascarenhas (has anyone mentioned he once scored five consecutive sixes in an ODI?) are all into double figures in the wickets column, with the often-erratic Sohail Tanvir one wicket away from joining them, so they have a varied bowling attack with part-time options if any of the frontliners (hello again, Sohail) end up getting hit everywhere.
Finally, they have a winning mentality that is hard to shake. They have won 18 of 19 completed T20 games going back to the middle of last season’s group stage – that’s a phenomenal record in a form of the game that some still like to believe is something of a lottery. That’s quite the lucky streak if that belief is actually true…
Surrey (James Knight)
On paper, Surrey have a team mostly made up of old, underwhelming players. In practice, Surrey are a team mostly made up of old, underwhelming players. Vikram Solanki, Zander de Bruyn, Jon Lewis, even Gareth Batty, who misses Finals Day due to being a spectacular nob, don’t exactly set pulses racing. Glenn Maxwell rolled up for a few games before disappearing off to smash some Indian net bowlers around, Kevin O’Brien played for a week and then vanished; Surrey’s entire season seems to have been an attempt to get the worst possible value for their overseas signings. Yet here they are.
Gareth Batty acknowledges the opposition.
There are a few reasons for their success: Jason Roy and Steve Davies are very good at the top, the sheer mass of Chris Tremlett’s guns tend to terrify the opposition into submission and Jade Dernbach is the Malcolm Marshall of the age. He has 16 wickets at an average of 13 in the tournament so far, and his economy rate of below 6. That’s right, less than a run a ball. Believe yet?
Davies and Roy are important, as is Azhar Mahmood, but Surrey’s bowling attack will have to fire if they’re going to make an impression on Saturday. Dernbach is probably the man; he has won T20s for England before (assuming they haven’t been erased from the records by the anti-Jade propagandarists yet) and he’s the man for the big occasion. Impact players are important in this form of the game and despite an underwhelming overall team, Surrey do have those. The first aim will be, as is often the case in these games, to not get completely obliterated in the semi-final. If they get past that they’ll probably win.