Surrey 159 for 4 (Maddinson 49*, Clarke 37*) beat Essex 157 for 5 (Chopra 52) by six wickets
What neutrals there were in a packed house at Chelmsford had mostly come to watch Aaron Finch and Jason Roy, the most explosive opening pairing in domestic T20, probably anywhere in the world, continue their devastating form.
On Friday against Middlesex they had combined for 194 runs in a barely credible 13.5 overs. Before today Finch had scored 462 runs in this season's tournament at an average of 154. Roy, back from England duty, had started to find form in the last couple of matches.
This time they were both out within 3.2 overs. Roy managed the philosophically challenging task of getting stumped for a duck without facing a ball, as he overbalanced to a wide speared down the leg side by Ashar Zaidi in the first over of Surrey's reply to Essex's below par 157 for 5. There are diamond ducks and golden ducks, but this was neither. Or both. Schrodinger's duck, maybe?
Finch showed glimpses of his excellent form in a ten-ball 16 before he was brilliantly caught by Michael Pepper hurtling in from the midwicket boundary to snaffle the chance inches above the ground.
But Surrey's line-up is packed with international riches. While the Australian Nic Maddinson bedded in at one end, Ben Foakes and Ollie Pope stroked attractive but all too brief cameos at the other.
Pope last week told ESPNcricinfo that he looks to get to 15 off ten balls. He got there in nine balls this time, then smashed Bopara for two fours over the top of mid-off (a shot he also said he'd been working on) and promptly got out mishitting a thigh high full toss from Zaidi straight into the hands of deep midwicket for 24 off 13 balls. He may have been anointed by Ed Smith's selectorial conclave a few hours earlier, and looks set to make his test debut against India on Thursday, but he's not infallible after all, it would seem.
In fact, when he was out Surrey were in danger of throwing away a certain win, teetering as they were on 95 for 4, but they bat deep. Maddinson and Rikki Clarke established themselves before charging home with 33 runs in their last nine balls to ease to a regulation victory by six wickets with 21 deliveries remaining.
This season Surrey have scored their runs at an average of 10.48 per over; the highest in the land. This is in part due to their depth of batting riches, but also hanks to a dynamic, carefree approach.
In contrast, Essex possess one of the country's more slothful line ups. Their innings failed to get started until the 20th over, when Zaidi, criminally held back while Pepper, Paul Walter and Ryan ten Doeschate scratched around for a combined 51 runs from 53 balls, plundered Tom Curran for a couple of fours and a towering six in an over that cost 23 runs.
It encapsulated everything that's wrong with Essex's thinking in this competition. With their captain out of form, and lacking power hitting in the middle order, they still left Ravi Bopara to come in at No. 5 at the end of the 12th over, giving him neither the time nor licence to build a match winning innings.
As for Zaidi, his eight-ball 24 showed a packed house at Chelmsford what might have been had Essex shown a bit more flexibility. With 38 balls left in the innings, the orthodox Pepper was sent in in front of him. Against a side like Surrey, 170 was going to be the bare minimum requirement. They had to go for broke.
Instead they allowed Surrey's seamers, led by the remarkable Clarke, who in another era could well have got the nod to replace Ben Stokes at Lord's ahead of Chris Woakes, to strangle the life out of the innings. Given Essex's parlous state at the foot of the South Group, needing as they do to win pretty much every game they play to have even a chance of qualification, the lack of invention and risk taking was baffling.
As for Surrey, they stride on, but in all likelihood will have to negotiate the sharp end of the group stage without two of the most gifted young cricketers in the land. Fortunately for them, they have some of the most gifted old cricketers in the land as well.