Birmingham 207 for 4 (Elliott 59*, de Grandhomme 36*) beat Surrey 204 for 5 (Roy 74, Henriques 48*) by six wickets
Birmingham Bears went through to their fourth Finals Day after chasing down Surrey's total of 204 for 5 with four balls and six wickets to spare. It was the highest successful chase in an English T20 knockout match but the milestone played second-fiddle to a blood and thunder quarter-final that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
The game had enough going for it: the last place at Final's Day up for grabs; Dom Sibley returning to the club that a month ago put out an exit statement more "good riddance" than "good luck"; Rikki Clarke looking to show his former county just why he was worth more than the one-year deal they put to him before Surrey backed him with two. Then, in the 14th over of Birmingham's pursuit of their 205 target, the game was doused in petrol.
Grant Elliott, captain, was leading the way on 46 from 22 balls, his side 147 for 4, when he hit Stuart Meaker high towards square leg where Rory Burns stooped to take what, on first viewing, looked a brilliant catch. In the third over, Burns had dropped Adam Hose on 1 in a similar position and the keeper went on to take 20 off the fifth over. Here was redemption for Burns and a match-turning breakthrough for Surrey.
But Elliott stayed put, as batsmen do when catches of such worth are taken so low, and standing umpire Martin Saggers sent it upstairs for the third umpire. As the review went on, the doubts crept in and even as Surrey's fielders high-fived Burns during the replays on the big screen, you sensed it was more show than certainty. Boos rained down from upon high as "NOT OUT" flashed on the screen. Burns, apoplectic, let the expletives flow. Understandably so. Elliott survived because he held his ground, knowing slow motion replays bring clouds rather than clarity in these situations. Understandably so. Elliot didn't invent the game - he just rolled the dice.
The rage lingered like a toxic haze, amplifying the disapproval when Elliott made it to his half-century at the start of the 16th over. Jade Dernbach, heart now so far up his sleeve that it was in the palm of his hand, conceded 18 off the 17th over. That left Elliott and Colin de Grandhomme 19 to get off the final three overs. Sam Curran's stones and a brilliant recovery for the first five balls of the penultimate from Dernbach saw nine needed off the final seven.
With the final delivery, de Grandhomme struck firmly to Moises Henriques at mid-off. Such was the force, the allrounder could not get his hands to the ball, allowing a single to be taken. And so, with a six and four, de Grandhomme took Birmingham to Finals Day with the first two balls off the final over, delivered by - yep, you guessed it - Rikki Clarke.
When Elliott said he was not sure how the pitch was going to play, right after winning the toss and putting Surrey in to bat, he wasn't joking. How he must have wished he could have that decision back as he watched Jason Roy and Aaron Finch put on 98 off the first 54 balls of the innings.
For narrative's sake, Sibley opened the bowling from the Pavilion End and was taken for 11 by Roy. That set the tone for an eventful Powerplay in which Finch borked one of his Christmas-ham calves, Roy made a punter in the Peter May Stand a grand richer with a towering six over midwicket and Surrey put on 75.
With Scott Borthwick out in the middle to do Finch's running, the Australian focussed solely on trying to hit the white off the ball. While he managed to reach the balcony of the OCS Stand with one of his seven boundaries (eventually dismissed for 39 off 27 balls), it was Roy who was setting the place alight.
Roy's half-century came off 23 balls, with five fours and three sixes - the third tipped over the bar by Sibley at square leg to take him to the milestone. The next 24 runs, off 15, were harder to come by, before Jeetan Patel nabbed him walking across his stumps. As angry as he was to go, he could comfort himself on the walk back with a quick look at the scoreboard: 132 on the board, with 47 deliveries remaining. Two-hundred-and-then-some was on the cards. However, Surrey's middle order were unable to build effectively on this perfect start. Again.
A lack of power in the engine room has long been a problem for Surrey in limited-overs and, here, that translated to just 51, for the loss of three, in the 6.5 overs between Roy's wicket and the start of the final over. A last over blitz from Ben Foakes - inexplicably batting at No. 7, despite being Surrey's most reliable middle-order batsman during their Royal London Cup campaign - and Henriques (who finished on 48 from 32) saw 21 runs added to take Surrey to 204 for 5.
Birmingham's chase got off to a brisk start thanks to the outlandish batting of left-hander Ed Pollock who, barring the pale complexion and Boy Band curtains, put on a passable Sanath Jayasuriya impression with some devastating boundaries over square leg. His approach was indicative of a side who knew the value of not wasting balls. Hose followed suit with 36 from 15 and so did Hain (29 from 20) before Elliott and de Grandhomme combined for the final 62.
Home comforts of Edgbaston now await Birmingham on September 2 as they look to win the whole thing, as they did in 2014. They will play Glamorgan in their semi-final, with Hampshire taking on Notts Outlaws. The order of games is yet to be determined.