This was Surrey at their awesome best, destroying Nottinghamshire with a scorching performance to match the heat of the day. Ruthlessly effective on a perfect batting strip, they set a Benson and Hedges Cup record by scoring 361 for 8 in their allotted overs and, not surprisingly, exceeded their own competition record for margin of victory as they clinched a place in the final for the fifth time.
Nottinghamshire will not wish to be reminded that they were on the receiving end when Lancashire scored 353 in 1995, the previous highest mark for a match between two counties, but this was far more crushing. From the outset, as Mark Butcher and Ian Ward raced untroubled to 62 inside 10 overs and 100 off just 89 balls, they were chasing a runaway train that became an ever decreasing dot on the horizon.
There was no Graham Thorpe, still nursing his injured calf, but Alec Stewart, Ally Brown and Ben Hollioake returned from England duty to reinforce Surrey's hand – one so strong yesterday that Butcher only played because Mark Ramprakash cried off with a damaged hamstring. He took his chance with both hands, his 84 pipping Stewart's 67 for the Gold Award as Surrey built the platform for a margin of victory that exceeded the 168 by which their 1992 side beat the Minor Counties.
For the poor bowlers, conditions were entirely unforgiving, although Nottinghamshire's attack merited little sympathy, particularly during the opening overs. Greg Smith and Andrew Harris seemed keen to discover just how fast Ward and Butcher could propel the ball off the bat, which was pretty fast, given that the outfield appeared to have been replaced with polished glass.
Having lost the toss against his former county, Darren Bicknell would have asked that his bowlers at least bowled line and length but if Smith and Harris were not bowling too wide they were pitching too it short. Some of the hitting was of the highest quality, especially Ward's driving and cutting, and Butcher's little dabs against the spinners.
Nottinghamshire rid themselves of Ward, stumped when the ball rebounded fortuitously off the wicketkeeper's chest, but there was no loss of Surrey momentum. Their second hundred came off 86 balls, their third off 81. Nadeem Shahid joined the feast with barely a pause to acclimatise, hitting 32 off 21 deliveries.
Then came Stewart, putting his England misery behind him at a run a ball and Brown, whose 49 off 37 included six fours and a towering six off Stemp as well as a couple of escapes. Ben Hollioake chipped in with 39 off 23 balls, a couple of those going for six over the heads of Smith and Usman Afzaal. Butcher had looked set to turn his best score of the season into a century until caught off a leading edge.
No Nottinghamshire bowler escaped lightly. Afzaal bowled Shahid, took a three-attempts return catch to remove Brown and had Stewart caught behind cutting, albeit at an expensive cost. Greg Blewett's cheaper three came in the slog.
To their credit, Nottinghamshire chased gamely, working the scoreboard operators almost as hard as Surrey had. But they kept losing wickets, too many of them carelessly. John Morris was run out in the fourth over by Alex Tudor, fielding his own bowling, with Darren Bicknell at fault, Blewett was bowled giving Ed Giddins the charge and Afzaal took a similarly wasteful liberty with Tudor.
Darren Bicknell fell to his brother Martin, edging an outswinger, and though Paul Johnson may have been justifiably aggrieved when Jeremy Lloyds gave him out leg before, the ball appearing to strike bat before pad, it was probably academic. Only Kevin Pietersen, whose powerful, unbeaten 78 was a highly impressive effort after coming in at 47 for 4, spared Nottinghamshire deeper embarrassment.Reuse content