One game in the Friends Life T20 Competition tonight, and it promises to be a thriller as Surrey take on Essex in the South Group at the Kia Oval live on Sky Sports.

Recommendations

- Essex as the team to score more Sixes in the contest – 11/10 with William Hill.

- Top Surrey Batsman Gary Wilson 8/1 Ladbrokes

 

The South Group of the T20 domestic cricket competition is hugely competitive. Last year’s winners Hampshire are joined by former winners Surrey, Sussex and Middlesex alongside Essex and Kent. With only two teams assured of going through beyond the group stages, every game counts

The table currently reads as follows:

Team Played Won Lost Tied N/R R/R Points
1 Hampshire 5 4 0 0 1 0.761 9.0
2 Surrey 5 4 1 0 0 0.493 8.0
3 Middlesex 7 4 3 0 0 0.435 8.0
4 Essex 6 3 2 0 1 0.31 7.0
5 Sussex 6 1 5 0 0 -0.05 2.0
6 Kent 5 0 5 0 0 -2.003 0.0

Tonight the Kia Oval plays host as Surrey play Essex.

In terms of outright odds Surrey are odds-on to continue their good form. They lost their first game in the group away to Hampshire but have won four on the bounce since . This though is a difficult game to predict, largely because of the inconsistency and unpredictability of Essex

On Friday at Chelmsford Essex were rolled over for 75 by Middlesex. On Sunday, on the same pitch and hampered by conceding twelve penalty runs for not completing their overs in time, they chased 172 to beat Sussex.

Whilst in these close fought games I have a usual instinct to bet the underdog for contrarian value, its an act of faith to do so with Essex.

There are further complications in these short format games, and the major one concerns The Kia Oval pitch as at the time of writing we do not know whether it will be used and worn, which is a legitimate tactic used around the country if sides want to keep games relatively low scoring, or favour spin, or neutralise the opponent’s run scoring potential. If not used, the pitch at the Kia Oval will be firm, true and batsmen friendly.

The difference in the playing conditions makes the difference at the Oval between scores of 135-145 batting first and 170-80 batting first.

My suspicion is that Surrey will look for an older pitch. They have three or four viable options to take pace off the ball including experienced T20 campaigners Gareth Batty and Azhar Mahmood, as well as the variations of Jade Dernbach. Essex on the other hand have injuries in their bowling ranks, and offer a more predictable seam attack with only the spin of Tim Phillips and the slow medium of Ravi Bopara likely to suit a worn pitch, and Shaun Tait and the very rapid Tymal Mills preferring a bouncier surface

The other difference is in the batting sides. Surrey have a few big hitters but with the exception of the boom and bust Jason Roy at the top of the order and the death hitter Azhar Mahmood the side is one of accumulators, such as Ricky Ponting and Gary Wilson. Essex on the other hand have more firepower, with Napier, Ten Doeschate, Bopara, Shah and Rutherford all capable of clearing the ropes.

So, to recommendations. Tempted as I am by Essex at odds-against I am concerned about their consistency and the possibility of a worn pitch. Instead, the two ideas I have are as follows

- Essex as the team to score more Sixes in the contest – 11/10 with William Hill.

As explained above, Essex have more firepower, irrespective of conditions. They might not come off as a team but this is a bet that can win even if the side loses

- Top Surrey Batsman Gary Wilson 8/1 Ladbrokes

Ireland International Wilson is often overlooked as an important cog in Surrey’s T20 batting line up. An accumulator batting 5 or 6 he frequently scores heavily, often repairing poor starts from the players sent in above with a licence to hit. Of course this is T20, and top batsmen markets are fraught and high variance as a betting proposition but the general flakiness of Surrey’s batting line up gives Wilson plenty of opportunities to build an innings

So far this year in three T20 innings Wilson has scored 44 not out, 31 and 29 and top scored each game. If the pitch is worn, this suits Wilson’s game.