Aaron Finch made a brilliant 131 not out, the highest T20 score by a Surrey batsman, as his side ended Sussex Sharks’ unbeaten start to the Vitality Blast with a thumping 52-run win at Hove.
Badly dropped by Jofra Archer with a single to his name, the 31-year-old Australian made the most of his reprieve with a brutal assault on the Sussex attack as he struck ten fours and seven sixes from just 79 balls.
With 61 plundered off the last five overs he helped Surrey, who were put in, to 192 for 3, a total Sussex never looked like overhauling on a pitch offering seam movement and uneven bounce.
Opener Phil Salt made 74 in the reply but the next highest scorer was Jofra Archer’s 18 as Sussex were bowled out for 140 in the 18th over.
It was Finch’s night but Archer will have nightmares about the straightforward return catch he shelled when Finch pushed tentatively forward to the first ball of the second over. Somehow Archer failed to hold on to the simplest of chances and Finch was soon making Sussex pay.
Even leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who had been instrumental as Sussex won their first three South Group games, wasn’t spared.
Finch, who made 114 not out against Sussex at the Kia Oval last year, hit the world ranked No 1 T20 bowler for two fours and two sixes.
Sussex managed to restrict Surrey to less than eight an over for the first 15 overs but Ollie Pope (23 not out) sensibly made sure Finch saw as much of the strike as possible during the late assault when Finch thrashed a further six fours and four sixes as the pair plundered an unbroken 100 from 50 balls for the fourth wicket.
David Wiese had earlier foxed Rory Burns (14) with a slower ball and Danny Briggs trapped Nic Maddinson (7) lbw in his first over.
Khan’s brilliant pick-up and throw ran out Ben Foakes (10) as he scampered through for a second.
Surrey were 92 for 3 in the 12th over but Khan (0 for 40), Archer (0 for 39) and Chris Jordan, whose three overs cost 39 runs, were all targeted when Finch went into overdrive.
It was spectacular entertainment for a sell-out crowd of 6,200 but the Sussex response was tame in comparison.
Sam Curran, released from the England one-day squad, set the tone by bowling back-to-back maidens and picking up Laurie Evans (3), the leading run-scorer in the Blast so far, off a mis-timed drive to mid-off.
In between, Luke Wright chipped Jade Dernbach to mid-wicket to leave Sussex 8 for 2 and Matt Pillans had the New Zealander Tom Bruce (10) caught at deep mid-wicket and Michael Burgess (6) held at long on in successive overs.
Salt was eventually yorked by Pillans for a career-best 74 from 47 balls with eight fours and two sixes while Pillans, who took 3 for 20, was the pick of the Surrey attack.
Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie said afterwards: “There were a couple of missed opportunities in the field which went on to cost us which was disappointing.
“And I didn’t think our bowlers adapted quickly enough to the wicket which did a bit for the seamers.
“Having said that, it was a very good knock by Aaron Finch. He’s outstanding in this format but if you drop him when he’s barely got started the chances are he will punish you.
“But it’s only our first defeat after three wins so we’ll be fine.”
Finch said: “From a distance the pitch looked an absolute road but it turned out to be quite low and slow.
“The first 50 runs were quite tough but I was pleased with how I got through that and cashed in.
“Credit to Ollie Pope at the end too. He played some good shots and we ran hard and I got a bit of the strike.
“It was nice to put in a match-winning performance and help us to another good win after beating Essex last night (Thursday 12 July).
“Our bowlers did an outstanding job. It was a really good polished performance by us.”