Surrey continued what is beginning to look like a suspiciously good end to the 2011 season by comprehensively beating Sussex by 71 runs in the shortened CB40 semi-final at the Oval today.
The rain threatened to curtail the day's play completely until it finally relented at about 3pm and play began 45 minutes later with the game cut to 24 overs aside. Earlier in the day Surrey had won the toss and asked to bat first. When they did eventually get going Hamilton-Brown, dropped by the 'keeper early in his innings, helped us off to a fine start. Each batsman that came and went thereafter helped keep the run rate above 9 almost throughout.
It was an outstanding knock of 60 off just 33 balls from Tom Maynard which did the bulk of the damage. Scoring his runs almost exclusively on the leg side he hit four huge sixes, while Davies, Roy and de Bruyn all did their bit to keep the pressure on the Sussex bowlers. Monty Panesar was the only bowler who was able to exert any control over our batsmen, though Chris Liddle did bowl a lot better than his economy rate of almost 8 an over suggests.
In the end Surrey managed 228 off their 24 overs, significantly eclipsing a couple of totals they've managed at the Oval in full 40 over encounters this season. Again Hamilton-Brown opted to open the innings with spin though this time it was Spriegel rather than the captain himself. His faith was rewarded as he had first the dangerous Prior caught at cover, and then he caught Murray Goodwin off his own bowling to set Sussex back early on.
Yasir Arafat also bowled two good overs early on but Ed Joyce remained at the crease, threatening to single handedly make Sussex competitive. Gareth Batty soon accounted for him though, and Joe Gatting soon after. By the time Chris Schofield was introduced into the attack Sussex we under massive run-rate pressure but he nonetheless bowled some good deliveries and ended with 4-22, including the final wicket to fall, that of Monty Panesar for a first ball duck.
It was as comprehensive a victory as we have seen this season, against a very good, albeit slightly short-of-form Sussex side. We now move on to a major domestic final at Lord's against final-specialists Somerset, sure to be a massive test but we really are getting on something of a roll at the moment. I said at the start of the season that the CB40 was probably our best chance of winning something, it hasn't quite happened the way I thought it would, but we are still there!
The ECB have confirmed that England players who are fit and selected will be available for the final, which means Jade Dernbach will play for us. What that means for Chris Tremlett and even Kevin Pietersen I don't know. For now though, let's just focus on the the major positive - Surrey are 80 overs away from a trophy - just to be in the final is a real achievement. The players can be very proud but most of all, take a bow Rory Hamilton-Brown and Chris Adams, I hope you enjoy this!