Gloucestershire edged past Surrey in a thrilling Vitality Blast contest beneath the Seat Unique Stadium floodlights.
Player of the Match Matty Taylor took 3-21 with the ball and then scored a crucial eight not out under pressure as Gloucestershire chased down a modest victory target of 125 with two wickets and five balls to spare on a low and slow Bristol surface.
Ollie Price top-scored with 25 and James Bracey contributed 22, but Surrey took wickets at key moments to keep up the pressure, with Sam Curran returning figures of 3-20 to help take the game into the final over.
Gloucestershire won the toss, inserted the visitors and produced their most complete bowling and fielding performance of the campaign so far to restrict Surrey to 124-9 from their 20 overs. Left-arm seamers David Payne and Matt Taylor claimed 3-21 and 3-27 respectively, while veteran spinner Tom Smith took 2-24 and Zafar Gohar sent down four overs for 15 runs.
Surrey never recovered from the wreckage of 29-4 in the fourth over, Jamie Smith top-scoring with 29 and Jordan Clark and Chris Jordan contributing 25 and 24 respectively as only four batsmen made it into double figures in an innings that yielded a mere 12 boundaries.
Gloucestershire’s second win in five matches breathed renewed life into their attempt to progress from the South Group, but Surrey, beaten for only the second time, lost ground on leaders Somerset, who comfortably beat Middlesex at Taunton to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Gloucestershire came at Surrey hard with the ball, Payne conceding just one run off the bat in a parsimonious first over. Slow left armer Smith, having been hit for a four and six off consecutive deliveries by Laurie Evans, made amends when Will Jacks holed out to Price in the deep as Gloucestershire effected a breakthrough with 18 on the board in the second over. Having smashed a match-winning 83 not out against Hampshire at Southampton two days earlier, Jacks mustered a mere six on this occasion.
Clearly unsettled by Gloucestershire’s new-ball intensity, Surrey then suffered a triple blow, losing three wickets in as many balls with the score on 29. Matt Taylor removed the Curran brothers without scoring in successive deliveries in the third over, Sam caught in two minds and bowled by a ball that came back into him and hit middle and off, while Tom, cramped for space, drove to Jack Taylor at mid-off. Worse followed for the Londoners when Payne, now operating from the Bristol Pavilion End, had Evans held at cover point for 16 off the first ball of the fourth over to spark pandemonium among a vociferous home crowd.
Determined to fight fire with fire, the fifth wicket pair of Clark and Smith went on the attack, plundering six boundaries between them in the next three overs as Surrey still managed to raise 58 from the six-over powerplay. But such a high-stakes strategy is not without risk and Clark, having scored 25 from 22 balls and dominated a stand of 34 in 23 balls, hoisted Smith high to long-off as Surrey further subsided to 63-5 in the eighth over.
Spinners Zafar, Smith and Price kept things tight to increase the pressure on the middle order as the visitors limped to 73-5 by the halfway point of their innings, a parlous situation that was not helped when loan signing Danny Lamb induced former West Indies all-rounder Sunil Narine to edge a short-pitched delivery behind with the score on 78 in the eleventh over.
Economical in the extreme, Zafar further heightened Surrey’s discomfiture, the visitors failing to record a single boundary between the ninth and 18th overs as Gloucestershire’s bowlers turned the screw. Having accumulated 29 runs from 33 balls and partially rebuilt the innings in a partnership of 29 with Jordan for the seventh wicket, Smith attempted to accelerate, only to send a leading edge spiralling to mid-off as the returning Payne struck in the 17th over.
Realising the pressing need to stage a big finish, Jordan ended the boundary drought by heaving Lamb over mid-wicket for six, but Jamie Overton succeeded only in holing out to cover as Payne further reduced the tail in the penultimate over. Matt Taylor also finished with three wickets, removing Jordan, whose innings of 24 from 26 balls was not sufficient to haul Surrey to a competitive total.
Gloucestershire’s new-look opening partnership of Grant Roelofsen and Ben Charlesworth posted 28 in four overs before the latter was held at mid-off off the bowling of Sam Curran, while Jordan bowled Miles Hammond for four to reduce the home side to 34-2 in the sixth.
Tied down by Narine’s wily off breaks in the previous over, Roelofsen played an injudicious shot against Cameron Steel and sliced to backward point for 21 with the score on 37, after which Zafar and Price found the going tough against the spinners. Zafar had made 11 when he was bowled by Narine in the act of reverse sweeping with Gloucestershire still requiring 67 from 59 balls.
No doubt relieved to have seen off Narine, who took 1-16 from four overs, the fifth wicket pair of Price and Bracey brought reassurance in a stand of 36 that served to calm any nerves. These two took 11 runs off Steel’s final over to ease the pressure, only for Bracey to then hit the returning Sam Curran to long-on and depart for a 17-ball 22 with the score on 94 in the 15th over.
Gloucestershire needed 23 more runs from 25 balls when Price lofted Gus Atkinson to mid-wicket, and the pressure was right back on when captain Jack Taylor hit Jordan to mid-off and departed for one in the 17th over.
Charged with the task of seeing their side over the finish line, Matt Taylor and Lamb obliged in a gritty alliance of 19 from 14 balls. By the time Lamb fell to Sam Curran for 11, Gloucestershire were virtually home and dry. With two needed off the final over, Smith hit the winning runs when glancing Jordan off his legs to the boundary fence.