Surrey 129 (Jacks 51, Smith 3-13, van Meekeren 3-32) beat Gloucestershire 92 (Higgins 37, Curran 4-14) by 37 runs
Gloucestershire were 14 for 3 after four overs of their chase, split equally between Topley and Curran. They were hugely over-reliant on Glenn Phillips, the New Zealand middle-order batter, in the Blast last season and when he popped a return catch to Curran after failing to pick an offcutter, they never stood much chance on a cold, damp evening in south London.
Jacks, the sixth man out for 51 thanks to a searing Naseem yorker, was the only batter to temper his attacking style against Gloucestershire’s change-up bowlers in the middle overs; Kieron Pollard, making his first Blast appearance since 2011, holed out for 14 off 15 balls while Curran’s own 6 off 2 underlined the frenetic nature of the night.
But he has gradually ramped up his workload to the extent that England were happy to pick him in their squad for the Amsterdam trip, where he could theoretically bowl 30 overs in six days. He did not concede a boundary in his opening burst, hitting a hard length and nipping the new white ball about; he was rewarded with the wickets of Phillips and James Bracey, chipping to mid-off.
Topley, meanwhile, had his own frustrations around the IPL. He was approached by a franchise about the possibility of a replacement deal in mid-March but according to ECB regulations, he was unable to take up the offer, with county-contracted players only permitted to sign IPL contracts before the end of February.
Topley was unimpressed and pleaded double standards – players with central contracts are allowed to sign at any stage – but has instead had to plug away in the Championship, taking nine early-season wickets to help Surrey to the top of the table. T20 nights are when Topley thrives: his first two overs cost only two runs and included the dismissal of Miles Hammond, stumps rearranged while swinging to leg.
Twenty20 you say? England ODI call-up you say? Combined figures of 6 overs, 6 wickets for 20 runs with 20 dot balls. Job done. pic.twitter.com/m4OzsP3S4L
— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) May 31, 2022
“We bowled really well according to the pitch,” Jacks said. “We used our skills and bowled brilliantly up top. Sammy and Toppers were brilliant. There was a bit of zip and they’re bowling with good pace and on the length that suited the wicket – any time you got too full, it was easier to hit.”
Surrey’s T20 side this season has a Harlem Globetrotters feel, with enough quality and depth to leave out Gus Atkinson, Rory Burns, Jordan Clark and Dan Moriarty, even with Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes away on England duty. In Pollard and Narine, they have two undisputed greats of the format, and should have few issues coping when Curran, Topley and Roy leave for the Netherlands tour.
Narine was characteristically frugal, conceding 17 runs and a single boundary – a reverse-swept four by Tom Smith – in his four-over spell. He turned the ball sharply in both directions, none more so than an offbreak which cut Benny Howell in half from a length and crashed into the top of his leg stump.
Howell and Smith had been the protagonists of Gloucestershire’s fightback with the ball, Smith benefitting from Surrey’s all-guns-blazing approach to pick up the first three wickets, those of Roy, Curran and Laurie Evans. Howell, like Narine, was the one bowler entrusted with a full four-over spell by his captain; like Narine, he took one wicket and conceded a solitary boundary.
Gloucestershire’s own England left-arm seamer, Payne, had a more expensive night than his Surrey counterparts, returning 2 for 30 from his three overs thanks to two cheap tail-end dismissals. Twice an unused member of an England white-ball squad, Payne is likely to make a long-awaited debut next month but with Topley and Curran ahead of him, he may have to wait his turn.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98