Essex 170 for 4 (Bopara 57, Westley 55) beat Surrey 169 for 8 (Sangakkara 58, Bopara 3-18) by six wickets
Ravi Bopara might well never play for England again. After failing to pass 33 in his last eight ODI innings, his omission from England's squad to play New Zealand barely merited comment. Bopara has only just turned 30 yet the selectors give the impression that, after 171 international games across all forms of the game, they have moved on.
But at The Oval, Bopara was in no mood to make that decision easy. T20 is the format in which Bopara has come closest to having a secure spot and the squad for the one-off T20 against New Zealand has yet to be picked. So a distillation of his short form class was particularly timely.
An innings of 57 off 48 balls provided it. If that seems a touch sedate by the Gaylian standards of this year's NatWest Blast, Bopara's knock was clinical and perfectly judged.
It contained moments of panache. Several deliveries were flicked past the fine leg boundary after Bopara wandered impudently across his stumps. Matt Dunn was lofted over mid-off for four after a shimmy down the wicket, a stroke that showed Bopara at his cocksure best.
Yet the defining feature of Bopara's innings was less of his dazzling strokes than his nerveless accumulation, which married precise placement with diligent running between the wickets.
In Tom Westley, who scored his third T20 half-century in three games since returning from a broken thumb, Bopara found an ideal ally. At one point during their match-defining stand of 115, they scored off 42 consecutive deliveries, negating the need to attempt anything rash.
"The rate never got above 10 which was something we spoke about," Westley said. "It was brilliant batting with Ravi - he was a very calming influence out there."
So despite hitting four sixes to Surrey's seven, Essex cruised to a victory that delighted their considerable travelling contingent; "like a second home game" was Westley's judgement. After he and Bopara fell in quick succession, Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster unflappably finished Surrey off, Foster whipping his first ball over square leg for six. The England Test captain was barely needed: Alastair Cook made just 8 before pulling Dunn to deep midwicket.
As if his batting was not enough, Bopara bowled with characteristic cunning. With his mix of cutters and slower balls delivered wicket-to-wicket, Bopara only conceded 18 runs from his four overs, including three from the final over of the innings. And Westley rather set the tone for Surrey's meek batting when he bowled Steven Davies in the very first over. Jason Roy, the darling of Friday nights at The Oval last year, made only nine before smiting David Masters to Cook at mid-off. After scoring 677 runs in T20 cricket last year, four innings have brought just 22 runs so far in 2015.
The situation called for rebuilding and that is what Kumar Sangakkara, gliding the ball beautifully, provided. He shared a stand of 57 with Moises Henriques, who reinforced the impression that he is one of the summers more astute T20 signings.
Zafar Ansari is often associated with funereal batting in the County Championship: his first-class strike rare is 36. But after slipping to 138 for 7 with 13 balls left, he showed his versatility by clubbing 22 off four Napier deliveries, including three huge legside sixes.
How Surrey needed it after being subjected to brutal bowling from Shaun Tait, who they had signed four years ago but pulled out with an elbow injury. Even in his 33rd year, he bowled with ferocious intent, and it was a curiosity that he was restricted to three overs.
Still than was enough to harass Gary Wilson. His day had begun with Ireland wrapping up victory over the UAE in the Intercontinental Cup just after 11.30am in Malahide; so keen was he to play for Surrey that he made it over the Irish Sea in time. When Tait welcomed him with a couple of snarling bouncers before he lashed a delivery straight to third man to fall for a five-ball duck, Wilson might have regretted making his hasty trip.