Surrey have advanced to the Twenty20 final after beating Lancashire by one run in the first semi-final.
There certainly is no business like showbusiness and yesterday at Edgbaston 20,000 fans turned up for a feast of hitting, diving, sliding and slogging. The weather was perfect, the ground immaculate and the cricket superb, indeed at times exhilarating.
And for the purists it must be stated that not always because of big hits, the first semi-final between Surrey and Lancashire was a low scoring match that still provided a tense and thrilling finish.
Surrey have some record in Twenty20 never having been beaten in the competition and part of the reason is their coolness under pressure. They had scored only 133, which on a good pitch and fast outfield, looked at least 30 too few but they took wickets, which is the best form of defence and challenged Lancashire to blink first.
Disappointingly for the large Lancashire contingent of the crowd, Dominic Cork’s, Warren Hegg’s and Chris Schofield’s eyes flickered like a camera shutter.
Andrew Flintoff, much to the disappointment of the neutrals in the crowd had been and gone, Carl Hooper had been bowled by the impressive left arm-spinner, Nayan Doshi, son of Indian Test player Dilip, and Dinesh Mongia had been caught behind off a very good ball by Paul Sampson. A seemingly easy chase had become tortuous, and Lancashire was struggling with 40 needed off the last five overs. However, such short matches can change in one over and some bold hitting by Cork off Doshi’s last over reduced the target to a very achievable 16 off the last two overs.
The very first ball of the next, Adam Hollioake’s last and Cork gambled with a lusty swing of the bat. As the ball sailed over long-on and into the crowd it proved a gamble that had paid off and it should have taken Lancashire to the final. Singles were all that was necessary from then but Cork, greedy for glory in front of the large crowd tried to lift the next delivery into the stands as well and was caught off a skied edge.
It was spectacularly naive cricket by him but thoughtful by Hollioake. The former Surrey and England captain has been the man of the tournament with 17 wickets in 17 overs before this match that suggests a canny understanding of bowling under pressure and his slower ball deceived Cork. Such composure was demanded from Azhar Mahmood in the final over as well. Only six was needed to tie the scores and allow Lancashire to win on fewer wickets lost and yet in a game based on boundaries Hegg and Schofield only managed five singles.
The two needed off the last ball to tie the scores was never possible after Schofield only succeeded in jamming a yorker into the in-field. Mahmood, quite rightly was soon buried by a mass of team-mates for a superb last over, but Surrey deserved to win for remaining nerveless. They had one chance to win, a slim one at that and grabbed it, Lancashire had numerous chances and contrived to abuse all of them. A point Flintoff made after the match when he admitted, "we choked a little bit towards the end".
Hollioake in contrast explained Surrey’s victory: "We’ve been in these positions quite a few times and must be doing something right." Experience is a great teacher.
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