Surrey missed the chance to go back to the top of the South Group after suffering their first Vitality Blast defeat of the season to Essex Eagles at the Kia Oval.

In a game reduced to 17 overs per side by rain, Essex bowled superbly in helpful conditions to dismiss Surrey for 118 in 16.4 overs after winning the toss.

Openers Will Buttleman and Adam Wheater broke the back of the chase with a stand of 67 and Buttleman saw his side home with an unbeaten half-century as Essex completed an eight-wicket win with nine balls to spare.

East London Advertiser: Will Buttleman of Essex hits out during Essex Eagles vs Sussex Sharks, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 15th June 2021Will Buttleman of Essex hits out during Essex Eagles vs Sussex Sharks, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 15th June 2021 (Image: ©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468)

In mitigation Surrey were without several key players including the Curran brothers, Sam and Tom, and Jason Roy, who have joined up with England for the IT20 series against Sri Lanka this week, while Laurie Evans withdrew with illness. But it was still an impressive performance by the 2019 winners, who picked up their second victory of the campaign which lifted them above Hampshire and Somerset into sixth.

Surrey struggled to build a competitive score after losing three key batsmen in the first three overs on a pitch which offered turn from the start.

Hashim Amla drove the first ball from slow left-armer Aron Nijjar to extra cover, Will Jacks (3) holed out to deep mid-wicket and Jamie Smith (20) was foxed by a superb delivery from Sam Cook which angled in off the seam to hit middle stump.

Rory Burns, in his first Blast appearance of the season, made just three before mis-timing a pull to leave Surrey 39 for 4 at the end of the powerplay, but 19-year-old Ben Geddes shaped up well on his debut, leading a recovery of sorts with Jordan Clark as they added 38 for the fifth wicket.

Geddes made 28, Clark top-scored with 30 before holing out to long off and Rikki Clarke hit 20 but Surrey lost their last six wickets in six overs with the excellent Cook picking up two more to finish with four for 15.

Having assessed conditions and with the outfield quickening up, Essex knew they needn’t take any risks but Buttleman Wheater still played positively.

Wheater made 30 before he was superbly caught low down in the covers by Clarke and Lawrence (11) was bowled trying to a whip a straight delivery from Clark through the leg side.

But Buttleman eased to an impressive maiden Blast half-century, finishing on 56 from 51 balls with seven fours and a six.

Vikram Solanki, Surrey coach, said: "If we're honest we weren't good enough tonight. We were on the wrong side of the toss because we would have liked to have chased but the difference was the powerplay.

"We perhaps didn't assess the pitch well enough and losing four wickets in the powerplay was always going to make it difficult for us to put Essex under pressure, we were probably 20 runs short of par.

"I was pleased for Ben Geddes on debut, he looked comfortable in what was a pressure situation when he came out to bat."

Essex coach Anthony McGrath said: "We're delighted. I thought it was an excellent performance against strong opposition and I think we showed what a good side we are.

"Sam Cook was outstanding with the ball for us and then I thought Will Buttleman and Michael Pepper were excellent when we batted, it was great to see two young players doing so well.

"It will give us a lot of confidence and if we can get two good results from our games at the end of the week the table will look a lot different."