Essex v Surrey, Flt20 South Group, Chelmsford June 22, 2012

Adams praises Surrey's character on raw night

Essex 145 for 7 (Franklin 63, Tremlett 3-19) beat Surrey 144 for 9 (Topley 3-28) by three wickets

For Surrey this match against Essex allowed the healing process to begin. Touched by tragedy once again with the death of Tom Maynard in an accident on the London underground, their young squad put the events of Monday behind them and fought every inch of the way before they lost to the last ball of the game. The result did not matter: at a time of dislocating sadness, the cricket was comfortingly familiar.

Surrey's game against Hampshire on Wednesday had been postponed to allow the club to come to terms with their loss. This was their first outing without the popular Maynard, a player who was expected to follow in his father Matthew's footsteps, as an England international and as a product of Glamorgan, a reminder of the ECB's silent W.

Chris Adams, Surrey's cricket manager, had said that his team needed to get back into the routine of playing after the numbing news of Maynard's death. The 23-year-old batsman was found dead on the tracks near Wimbledon Park tube station on Monday, robbing Surrey of a young star, the Maynard family of a son. Speaking after the match, Adams praised the response of his players on a raw night.

"It's been a desperately difficult week for them," he said. "I don't think any of us expected to not be highly emotional today. It was a lovely gesture by Essex to start the day off with the wreath, which meant that the two lads walking out to bat were visibly upset and so were the people in the dugout.

"I can be proud of the lads, they have shown amazing character through the week - I think just turning up today was enough for me. They did it and got through it and we nearly won a game. This is a very difficult place to come and win anyway, under any circumstance, but after a week like that to get so close gives me great heart.

"We came back in yesterday to The Oval, and we all expected that to be quite difficult. It was the first time back in the changing rooms, first time the lads will have seen Tom's locker and there were some very, very sombre and quiet moments.

"I think the best counselling that they will have in the whole process is tonight, is getting out there, back in the arena and doing what they do best, which is playing cricket. There will be a lot of proud people, supporters, a family back in Wales - I know, as soon as the game was over I had a text from Matthew to say so.

"We'll move on, and our cause for the rest of the season is defined: whatever we do, it will be to make sure that Tom Maynard is looking down, very proud of what he stood for, the team stands for and how we want to play our cricket."

Chris Tremlett, the England fast bowler, making his first appearance of the season for Surrey's first XI, took 3 for 19 off his four overs but James Franklin's 63 from 51 balls and some late hitting from Tim Phillips were decisive as Essex secured a dramatic victory. In scoring 26 off the final 11 deliveries Essex triumphed by a fine margin for the third successive evening, in exhilarating fashion. It was, if nothing more, a fleeting, enthralling distraction from real life.

A minute's silence preceded the start, with the teams lined up on the outfield wearing black armbands. Several Surrey players were visibly affected by the emotion of the occasion and Jason Roy, who walked off with a consoling arm around his shoulder, had to immediately don his helmet and return to the middle to open the batting.

He hit the first ball he faced straight back down the ground for four, following it up with several further boundaries in a highly charged 36 off 20 balls before holing out to deep midwicket. On being dismissed, he looked to the heavens before dragging himself from the pitch on heavy legs. Twenty20 is often a game of frivolity but Roy's reaction spoke of weightier matters on his mind.

Rory Hamilton-Brown, the Surrey captain and Maynard's flatmate, had been given compassionate leave - though he was present for the minute's silence - with Gareth Batty leading the side. There was an added poignancy to the commonplace sight of the players in a huddle on the outfield, missing as it was Surrey's No. 55, as well as Hamilton-Brown and the England international Jade Dernbach, a close friend of Maynard's. "It's been the most difficult week of my career certainly," Batty said at the toss. "It's bringing the club together. Our thoughts are with his mother and father down in Wales."

The loss of a team-mate in such circumstances is, mercifully, not something that many players will have to deal with in their careers. Stuart Meaker, the Surrey fast bowler, had tweeted after being called into the England squad for the third ODI against West Indies that he and Dernbach had "been given a chance to play this Friday for the memory of Tommy Maynard. I hope we can do him proud." Rain at Headingley denied Meaker and Dernbach such an opportunity but Meaker made the 200-mile journey to Chelmsford in time to feature in this fixture.

He celebrated with a pump of both arms after bowling James Foster with his third ball and for while, as Essex struggled against the pace of Meaker and Tremlett, slipping from 93 for 3 to 119 for 7 in 28 balls, it looked as if Surrey might secure the win they almost visibly strained for. It wasn't quite to be. But, on this occasion, there was something more important to play for.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo