With depressing inevitability the Surrey Cricket Blog curse struck again tonight. After four successive T20 wins Surrey came a cropper against an impressive Essex outfit at the Oval.
Gareth Batty won the toss and decided that setting a total and fielding in the slightly cooler evening air was the best bet. When Jason Roy took 10 runs off Shaun Tait's first over it looked a good shout but once Steven Davies fell to Graham Napier's first delivery the home side struggled for momentum.
Jason Roy mad a good looking 30 before he was run out attempting a very tight second run. I'm not sure whether it was Ponting's or Roy's call but it never looked on. Glen Maxwell, playing his final match, batted at four which I found surprising given Gary Wilson's form and the time left in the game to build an innings. As it was Maxwell struggled to find his timing in plodding to 16 off 18 deliveries without hitting a single boundary. Ponting was gamely trying to force the issue but he was also still not at his fluent best.
Azhar Mahmood struggled to score quickly too, he came and went for 12 off 11. When Wilson did appear at number six he only had nine balls to make an impact. He managed 13 runs to drag Surrey's total to what looked like a defendable 148, considering the impressive form of our bowlers. That was despite a superb final over from Shaun Tait who looked too hot to handle for everyone but Roy. Ricky Ponting finally top scored for his side with 65, although the timing of his dismissal - with just 13 balls remaining and leaving two new batsmen to face them - was frustrating.
The Essex innings began in aggressive fashion as Hamish Rutherford looked to take the attack to the Surrey bowlers. He raced to 30 from 17 balls by the fifth over before a Jon Lewis slower ball foxed him and he was well caught in the deep by Ansari.
That proved a rare success for Surrey's bowlers as Greg Smith then took over the run scoring baton. Rutherford's aggression had allowed Smith the time to bed in but once his Kiwi partner was gone he played beautifully. I thought Gareth Batty missed a couple of tricks tactically tonight, specifically in holding back Dernbach's second over until the 12th, and not bowling Maxwell at all after his first over went for just four. Zander de Bruyn meanwhile was given two overs which disappeared for 22 runs. If he's going to bat no higher than 8 in this format his captain will want better control. We also let ourselves down in the field, Jon Lewis and Azhar Mahmood were predictably lethargic and cost us probably 15 runs.
Essex duly delivered the win with seven balls remaining with Owais Shah unbeaten on 46. The result leaves us with four wins and two defeats after six fixtures. We've dropped from second to fourth (below Middlesex!) in what looks like a very tight group. A win against flying Hampshire on Friday will get things back on track though.