Gus Atkinson’s four wickets further dent home side’s finals hopes
Surrey 178 for 3 (Smith 60, Evans 58) beat Gloucestershire 177 for 9 (Phillips 48, Atkinson 4-37) by seven wickets
Gloucestershire, vanquished by Surrey in the Blast semi-final last season, suffered another potentially ruinous T20 defeat against them in their first match-up since as Surrey claimed a comfortable seven-wicket win which left both counties heading into their final South Group match of the season with a quarter-final place still in the balance.
That Surrey semi-final victory came in the raucous, beery atmosphere of Edgbaston. The cultured confines of Cheltenham College provided an entirely different sort of atmosphere – just the sort of highbrow setting that would give the Hundred’s marketing team nightmares. Even when Sweet Caroline briefly sounded over the PA system, it felt slightly different, as if it had been secretly re-engineered to be more in keeping with other musical ensembles.
Gloucestershire have had a mixed Festival. One Championship win in two meant that they failed to qualify for Division One, and the same ratio in the Blast means that they must beat Somerset at Taunton on Sunday to overhaul Surrey, who now have a one-point advantage over them.
Despite defeat, the final day of the Festival was some sort of sustenance for Gloucestershire supporters. Their next chance to see Gloucestershire in a home tie may be the penultimate day of August, and could be even later, with the ECB indicating that they need two weeks to work out the fixtures for the final stages of the Championship. At first sight, it appears that an ECB official armed with pen and paper has got the job ahead of the Fugako Supercomputer.
Atkinson finished with 4 for 37, adding two late wickets to the removal in the Powerplay of Miles Hammond, who played on attempting an expansive drive. Sixty-two in the Powerplay was better than Surrey’s, but Gareth Batty, exemplary in returning 2 for 21, and Dan Moriarty strangled the innings thereafter. Moriarty defeated Ian Cockbain’s slog sweep before Batty defeated Benny Howell’s back-foot force in the next over and flicked the off bail.
Gloucestershire asked Phillips to have the same impact with the ball that he has had with the bat, slipping him in for two overs with the new ball, but he had only bowled two overs all season, and it proved to be unproductive. Ryan Higgins, who until the previous game had been reserved for late in the innings, conceded successive sixes off Will Jacks and leaked 19 in the fifth over as Surrey found impetus.
Jacks’ danger signals ended when he stepped away to the legside and sliced Josh Shaw to deep cover, but by the time Howell bowled Smith for 60, his best of the season, to end a crisp innings, his stand of 87 in 53 balls with Evans had pretty much wrapped the game up. Tim David, a Singaporean cricketer brought in for the last two games – stints in the Big Bash and Pakistan Super League have been his calling card – contributed an unbeaten 25 and was there at the end. Surrey will regard it as money well spent if they reach the last eight and whether it was invites yet more existential angst (as if any more was needed) about the priorities and potential of the county game. To be fair to Surrey, unlike many, they are rich and ambitious enough to do it.
As for Gloucestershire, Jack Taylor accurately summed up their failings. “To get off to the start we did, you can’t ask for too much more than that but we just played the spin really badly,” he said. “It’s been a constant theme that no-one apart from Glenn has gone on and made that big score and we have to address that on Sunday now. It’s still in our hands going into the last game but as a senior experienced batting group, we all have to put our hands up and not just rely on Glenn.”
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps