Warwickshire all-rounder Rikki Clarke wants to leave some of his friends disappointed on Saturday. In normal circumstances, of course, the Bears limited-overs linchpin craves only joy and celebration for all his friends. But that just won’t be possible on Saturday when Warwickshire face Surrey in the Royal London Cup final at Lord’s.
For Clarke has plenty of pals in both camps; from his time as very much a Bear for the last eight years and, before that, his roots deep in the Surrey system where he played from boyhood and into the first team until the age of 26. He has faced Surrey many times on behalf of the Bears by now, of course – but their meetings still have a unique resonance for the 34-year-old.
“It is still special, definitely,” Clarke said. “My first game for Surrey was as an Under-Nine so I go back a long way there, from Under-Nines all the way up through 2007.
I’ve been with Warwickshire for eight years now so this definitely feels like home.Rikki Clarke
“My family and a lot of my friends still live in the Surrey area so it’s always been a little bit weird playing against them. To play against them in a final at Lord’s will be just amazing.
“I’ll have a lot of friends in both camps but I’ve been with Warwickshire for eight years now so this definitely feels like home now.”
Clarke will have a big role to play in Saturday’s mouth-watering final. His all-round abilities are at the heart of Warwickshire’s strategy in all formats but not least in 50-over cricket in which he opens the bowling.
To him will fall the responsibility of trying to inflict early damage on Surrey’s powerful top order. It is a responsibility he relishes as the Bears prepare for the final with confidence from having won three successive must-win games (the last group match away to Yorkshire, then quarter and semi-finals at home to Essex and Somerset respectively) in impressive style.
“It’s a pretty straightforward method,” he said. “We’ve been getting runs on the board and defending them really well or, when bowling first, keeping sides down to a decent total. We have found a formula and had a consistent side with a lot of role clarity.
Surrey have some amazing, very destructive players, but in a final it’s always a question of who delivers on the day.Rikki Clarke
“I’ve opened the bowling in the last four seasons, especially in T20, and it has gone well. At times it doesn’t go right, but that happens in cricket and as long as you keep hitting your line and length and bowling to the conditions you can put yourself in a position to succeed.
“We always aim to take two wickets in the power-play. Surrey have some amazing, very destructive players, but in a final it’s always a question of who delivers on the day. If we don’t get wickets up front we just have to keep the runs down so the spinners can squeeze as much as possible.
“Over the last few years we’ve played some really good white-ball cricket, reached two T20 Finals Days in a row and four Lord’s finals in seven seasons, so now hopefully we can get a win and a trophy next Saturday.
“It has been a strange season overall, with the weather interfering quite a lot, but if we can put in a good performance at Lord’s and lift the trophy that would be a brilliant way to end the white-ball season.”