By Rob Barnett
Surrey go into a second straight Finals Day with two of Twenty20’s most devastating batsmen, Kevin Pietersen and Jason Roy, in their ranks, making skipper Gary Wilson hopeful his side can go one better than last year.
Roy played for Surrey on 2013 Finals Day but Pietersen was unavailable to a team led by Vikram Solanki that beat holders Hampshire in the semi-final but were outclassed by surprise package Northants Steelbacks in the showpiece.
This season the precocious Roy has hit new heights, becoming NatWest T20 Blast’s leading scorer with a gargantuan 619 runs at a strike-rate of 152.
Pietersen, a World Twenty20 winner and Indian Premier League regular, has yet to find his best form in the Blast, but Wilson is backing him to deliver.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, he said: “The good thing about KP is he’s a big-game player and Finals Day’s as big as it gets really so he’ll really relish the opportunity to play on the big stage again. Hopefully for us that will mean a few runs.”
On Roy, who flayed a whopping eighth fifty of the competition in the quarter-final defeat of Worcestershire Rapids, Wilson added: “Everyone’s made a lot out of what Jason’s done this year so far and hopefully for him he can go on and do it at Finals Day as well.
“He’s been amazing for us this year and I can’t believe that England selection will be too far away for him.”
Barring injury in today’s Royal London One-Day Cup clash with Somerset, Surrey will be at full strength on Saturday with England paceman Jade Dernbach available after injury.
“We’re feeling good. The boys are in good spirits. We’re fully fit and ready to go so looking forward to it. Jade will be back for Finals Day,” Wilson confirmed.
“It’s obviously good that we got to Finals Day last year so most of the squad that we’ve got here now have got experience of the day and know what’s it’s all about.
“It was disappointing to fall short in the final last year and we’re looking to go one better this year but first up there will be Birmingham in the first game and if we can get past that then we’ll be stood in pretty good stead.”
The semi-final with hosts Birmingham Bears throws up a showdown with two former Surrey players, experienced all-rounder Rikki Clarke and batsman Laurie Evans. The latter recently smashed 43 not out off 15 balls versus Wilson and Co in the Cup.
Ireland international Wilson is aware of Clarke and Evans’ threat, but also that posed by England pair Ian Bell and Chris Woakes.
“We know what Rikki can do. He was a fantastic player for us when he was here at the Oval. And Laurie Evans as well, he got 40-odd off 18 (sic) balls against us the other day in the one-day competition. We know what he can do as well,” Wilson said.
“There’s lots of guys in Birmingham that can take the game away from you. I know they’ve got Ian Bell and Chris Woakes coming back in as well.
“I still think if we perform our skills to the best of our ability then I’ll back us to come out on top.”
During last year’s Finals Day Wilson, fielding for much of the time in front of the raucous Eric Hollies Stand, became something of cult hero for the boozy fans in situ.
When he caught David Willey right in front of those spectators during the final, an already excited stand went berserk.
With Finals Day at Edgbaston for a second consecutive year, Wilson is hoping for more banter with fans albeit it will be trickier now he is Surrey’s gloveman.
“I’ve got a few tweets about it but it’ll be slightly different now that I’m keeping wicket,” he explained.
“It’ll be a bit harder to get the banter going on the boundary, but it was a fantastic day and it’s definitely one I’ll never forget. But if you offer me a couple of wins instead of that, I think I’ll take it.”
NatWest T20 Blast facts
*Surrey have won nine of their last 13 Twenty20 fixtures away from home.
*Jason Roy (619 runs in 14 innings) needs 50 runs to set a new record for most runs in an English domestic Twenty20 season. Hampshire’s Jimmy Adams hit 668 in 19 innings in 2010.
*Roy has hit 83 runs without being dismissed against spinners in power plays this season, at a strike rate of 183.
*Since the start of last season the toss-winning team at Edgbaston has elected to field in all 12 Twenty20 fixtures where a toss took place, going on to win eight times.