The Birmingham Bears’ NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final visit to The Oval on Friday evokes memories of their last-eight clash there back in 2005 – a strange old game which ended with the Bears beaten in a bowlout with the moon high in the London sky.
It was a night of confusion, controversy and ultimately, for the Bears, disappointment – yet Nick Knight, captain in the game, admits that a big part of him felt on that chaotic evening felt that justice had been done.
After Surrey were restricted to 149 for eight by a bowling attack led by Jonathan Trott (4-0-19-2) and Jimmy Anyon (3-0-24-2) the Bears reached 25 for two in the fifth over when rain reduced the target to 118 from 15 overs.
It came down to 32 needed from three overs – and 14 from the last. And things started do get complicated when seven were required from two balls – or so everyone thought.
"They (Surrey) had just spent seven minutes setting a field to stop us getting three to win, had succeeded and then been told they hadn’t won. I think I’d have been pretty upset in their position."
The first of those deliveries, from Azhar Mahmood, was driven for four by Dewald Pretorius. At which point Surrey captain Mark Ramprakash was assured by the umpires that the Bears needed three runs to win. Two would mean Surrey win.
Six minutes elapsed while that fact was ascertained and the fielders were placed. Finally, in went Mahmood and Pretorius and Heath Streak scrambled two to mid-off. Surrey’s celebrations began – but not for long.
Up in the scorers’ box, Bears’ scorer David Wainwright pointed out that, actually, you could have a tie in T20 cricket. ECB cricket operations manager Alan Fordham, contacted by phone, agreed – and, much to Surrey’s angst, a bowlout was ordered.
So, 35 minutes after the match had apparently ended, with most of the crowd oblivious to the turn of events, having long departed, five bowlers from each side bowled twice at a set of stumps on the square. Surrey won 4-3, the decisive hit coming from Tim Murtagh, who wheeled away, swinging his shirt around his head in triumph – a suitably bizarre conclusion.
It was a funny old night, reflects Knight. But despite the quarter-final exit for the Bears, whom Knight and coach John Inverarity had steered to the County Championship title the previous year, he recalls having mixed feelings.
“It was a strange situation as they sorted out what was happening,” he said. “It was all a bit chaotic and emotions were running high but Invers and I were both pretty phlegmatic characters so we just let them get on with it.
“I remember standing on the outfield watching the bowlout and, of course it was disappointing to lose it, but to be honest I would have felt sorry for Surrey if we’d won.
“They had just spent seven minutes setting a field to stop us getting three to win, had succeeded and then been told they hadn’t won. I think I’d have been pretty upset in their position!
“We were disappointed to lose but, to be honest, more disappointed with not having won the game properly than in the bowl out. We were thinking more along the lines of ‘how did we not get 150 to win?’