On 18 July 2003, Surrey made history by winning the inaugural Twenty20 Cup, defeating Gloucestershire and then Warwickshire in a memorable Finals Day at Trent Bridge.
Surrey, skippered by the inspirational Adam Hollioake, had breezed through the group stage, winning all five of their matches in the South Division and setting a blueprint for how the new format should be played.
Hollioake’s slower balls proved particularly potent, the all-rounder going on to top the tournament’s wicket-taking charts, while James Ormond also adapted quickly, becoming the first ever player to take a T20 five-wicket haul, returning figures of 5/26 against Middlesex. The England seamer would later play a starring role in the final.
Surrey’s dominance in the group stage and a star-studded line-up featuring Ali Brown, Azhar Mahmood and Saqlain Mushtaq made them favourites going into Finals Day, but they nearly came unstuck in the first semi-final against Mark Alleyne’s Gloucestershire.
A disciplined bowling performance restricted Surrey to 147/9, Ian Ward – wearing an innovative helmet cam for the day – top-scoring with a patient 49 from 48 balls.
With Gloucestershire 120/5 in reply, the game was in the balance, but Azhar took the crucial wicket of Alex Gidman, clean bowled for 61, to help Surrey to a nerve-shredding five-run victory.
After Warwickshire beat Leicestershire in the second semi-final, there was time for a musical interlude, as pop group Atomic Kitten took to the stage playing their hit tracks such as Eternal Flame. Shortly afterwards it was Ormond who was on fire, clean bowling the openers Neil Carter and Nick Knight and then seeing off Jim Troughton and Dougie Brown, eventually finishing with the stunning figures of 4/11. With Azhar’s key wicket of Ian Bell sandwiched in the middle of Ormond’s four scalps, the Bears had slipped to 33/5 against a rampant Surrey attack.
Trevor Penney (33) and Tony Frost (31) added some respectability to the score but a total of 115 was never going to be enough to overcome Surrey. Hollioake’s side made short work of their target, Brown and Ward both making half-centuries before Mark Ramprakash hit the winning boundary, drilling his former England teammate Knight through the covers to seal the trophy.
“We’ve enjoyed the whole tournament, we’ve enjoyed the whole concept and today has been fantastic,” said Ian Ward in his post-match interview. “I don’t know how many thousands of people are here today but I’m sure they’ve all enjoyed it.”
The arrival of T20 had been greeted with suspicion by some but after a tournament which had attracted a new audience and provided some thrilling entertainment, it was clear the new format was here to stay.
Tickets are still available for this year’s Vitality Blast T20 competition. Surrey’s first game is Friday 27 May against Glamorgan at The Kia Oval, get your tickets here.