Buoyant Sussex crush Surrey
Sussex 158 for 7 (McCullum 34, Schofield 2-21) beat Surrey 119 (Davies 35, Beer 2-16) by 39 runs
Surrey's woes continued as they sank to a 39-run defeat at the hands of a buoyant Sussex at The Oval. For the visitors, all of the top order bar Matt Prior contributed in a total of 158 for 7, Brendon McCullum top-scoring with 34. Surrey's batting folded after Rory Hamilton-Brown had been removed after a fiery 13-ball 24, with 21-year-old legspinner Will Beer taking the wickets of Steve Davies and Andrew Symonds in a parsimonious spell to earn the Man of the Match award before Chad Keegan brought the game to a swift end with three clean-bowled dismissals.
Things had looked much brighter for the home side when they began their chase on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Chris Nash was asked to open the bowling with his offspin, but the experiment was a disaster as first Davies thrashed him firmly through the covers and Hamilton-Brown then lifted him for two monstrous sixes to take 18 from the over.
Sussex regained some control as Keegan's first over went for just six, but Robin Martin-Jenkins waivered in both line and length and Surrey raced to 36 in the first three overs. Goodwin, captaining in Michael Yardy's absence, continued to cycle his bowlers, with Dwayne Smith replacing Keegan and James Kirtley brought on for Martin-Jenkins. Kirtley's introduction brought immediate success as he got a ball to rear up and hurry Hamilton-Brown's pull, the resultant top-edge being snaffled easily by Goodwin himself, running back from square leg.
Surrey could soon have been in even deeper trouble when Mark Ramprakash swept Beer and the ball looped off the outer half of the bat towards fine leg, but the fielder spilled the tough, dipping chance. Ramprakash could make nothing of the second life, however, falling soon after to a superb stumping by Andy Hodd as he over-balanced while looking to nudge Martin-Jenkins away.
Hodd has the experience of both Prior and McCullum in the squad to draw upon but looked a superb 'keeper in his own right today, as not a chance went begging behind the stumps and not a single bye was given away.
Surrey began to slide with Ramprakash's dismissal, Symonds falling second ball as he aimed to clear the infield and Davies falling in similar fashion two overs later for 35 - the highest score of the innings - to give Beer his second wicket and leave his side in some strife at 74 for 4 in the 11th over.
With the required run-rate climbing, Stewart Walters got going with a cracking pull off Kirtley that raced to the midwicket boundary almost before any of the fielders could move, but then found Keegan at deep square leg trying to repeat the stroke off Smith.
Nash's re-introduction then sealed the result, with Gareth Batty and Younis Khan - who will no doubt have been somewhat distracted by his snubbing for Pakistan's Test and Twenty20 squads for their England tour - perishing within four balls of each other as they tried to reach the boundary, and Surrey were dead in the water at 97 for 7 with just 24 balls left. It was left to Keegan to administer the final blow, as he steamed in to shatter the stumps of Nos. 8, 9 and 11 to bowl Surrey out for 119.
Surrey had looked a far more competitive side in the field than with the bat, with Chris Tremlett's menacing pace and bounce accounting for Prior early on before Chris Schofield did his best to asphyxiate the middle order.
After McCullum and Goodwin fell in consecutive overs to slow bowlers, Smith, who hit the most sixes for Sussex in this competition last year, was soon into his stride, lifting Symonds over square leg with nonchalance and then cracking him into the second tier of the stands beyond long-on to move into the 20s.
Sussex lost a wicket as the partnership was beginning to look threatening as Smith played over the top of a full delivery from Schofield to be bowled for 23 with the score at 99 for 4 and Hodd could have been run out soon after when Nash stepped down the wicket to thrash Tim Linley to Schofield at long-off and a second run was called for, unwisely, after a slight misfield. Linley couldn't hold on to the return from the deep, which would have had the batsman out by at least a foot, but made amends soon after when he speared in a yorker which struck Hodd's pads in front of the stumps as he shuffled across to attempt a scoop.
There were the usual histrionics from Andre Nel, particularly when he had Nash ducking and weaving in his second spell, but in between the showboating and the steely glares Nel also showed some guile and experience to keep boundaries to a minimum at the death.
Tremlett, too, continued to impress. Joe Gatting sent the fifth ball of his second spell scything over the turf to the cover boundary where, much to the amusement of the crowd, it bobbled over the rope and struck one of the Lionesses cheerleading group (thankfully, not mid-routine). But the tall fast bowler struck back immediately to have Gatting easily caught by third man running in from the boundary after an intelligent change of pace.
But that was as good as it got for Surrey, whose shoddy limited-overs batting means they continue to languish in the bottom half of the South Group points table.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPN Cricinfo