Surrey 167 for 6 (Jacks 65, Overton 40*, Beer 3-34) beat Sussex 165 for 7 (Wright 45) by four wickets
Surrey won their fifth game on the bounce to confirm their place in the T20 Blast quarter-finals for the first time since 2017, gunning down a 166-run target with five balls to spare as Will Jacks and Jamie Overton's batting form continued at The Oval.
Jacks set the tone at the top of the order with a belligerent 65, hitting each of Sussex's three-pronged spin attack for six down the ground. He was particularly brutal against Delray Rawlins, giving himself room to unfurl rasping cut shots either side of point in the ninth over, and had broken the back of the run chase by the time he was bowled by Will Beer in the 12th.
A tall opening batsman in the Kevin Pietersen mould, Jacks started the Blast slowly but has now scored 198 runs in his last five innings at a strike rate of 160.97; he has dovetailed brilliantly with Hashim Amla at the top of the order, and is beginning to look like the accomplished T20 player that many have been expecting to emerge.
Overton, meanwhile, finished the game with an enterprising cameo of 40 not out off 22 balls, which included a towering six over midwicket in the 19th over and a deft paddle sweep off David Wiese to seal the win. He played the senior role in a 47-run partnership with Jamie Smith that ensured a recovery following a mini-wobble in the middle overs, and has now made 99 runs off 51 balls across his last three innings.
Overton left Somerset suddenly after being omitted from their Blast side earlier in the competition, having initially planned to stay at the club until the end of the season. While his Test ambitions and desire to take the new ball in four-day cricket were the main reasons behind his move up the M3, Overton has cited his intentions to bat further up the order in all formats, and has done so impressively since his loan switch.
I was never a regular starter? This year yes, previous years?? I have aspirations to take the new ball! More of a role with the bat in all forms, I don't see myself as just a bowler!— Jamie Overton (@JamieOverton) September 15, 2020
He had not batted above No. 9 since 2016 in a T20 at Somerset, but has been used at No. 6, No. 5 and No. 7 so far this season for Surrey. He went unused with the ball tonight, with stand-in captain Rory Burns seemingly wary of giving Sussex pace to work with in the first innings, but still managed to display his match-winning ability.
"I've always seen myself as an allrounder," Overton said. "At Somerset, I couldn't really show that potential. I've come here and been able to showcase what I can actually do. Coming into a new team and showing what I can do with the bat has been the main thing."
Surrey have been buoyed by his arrival - and that of Amla after he missed the start of their season due to travel restrictions - and after going more than a year without a win in all formats, they have suddenly strung together an impressive run. Tonight's win came without Gareth Batty (hamstring) and Laurie Evans (ineligible against his parent club), and they could yet be boosted by the possible return of Jason Roy from England duty.
After being asked to bat first, Sussex rarely looked like getting away from Surrey, until a late flurry of 44 runs in the final three overs took them to a total that appeared competitive on a central strip that meant vast square boundaries.
The returning Phil Salt lasted only four balls on his return from the England ODI bubble, as he was trapped lbw to Jacks' first delivery, and when pinch-hitter Aaron Thomason chipped a catch to mid-on after being rushed by a Reece Topley short ball, Sussex had lost two inside the first three overs.
But with a long batting line-up - Ravi Bopara came in at No. 7 - they built steadily through the middle to set things up. Luke Wright, their leading run-scorer in the competition, was the glue to hold the innings together with 45, while Rawlins hit two towering sixes in an otherwise bitty middle-order cameo.
In amongst that was Liam Plunkett's first bowl in professional cricket since January, and his first on English soil in just short of a year. Perhaps inevitably, it came as England grew increasingly desperate of a middle-overs breakthrough against Australia, and his spell of 1 for 22 included the usual array of back-of-a-length balls, plus a searing yorker to clean up Calum MacLeod.
As is his wont, David Wiese took 15 balls to get set, before skipping down to heave Topley over long-on, but it was Bopara whose innings was particularly crucial. Surrey had decided that hitting a hard length and making batsmen hit to the long square boundaries was the way to go, and Gus Atkinson stuck with the plan: he banged three balls in halfway down in a row to Bopara, who responded by pulling three sixes over midwicket.
With Wiese and George Garton adding boundaries in the last over, Sussex had 165 and the second-highest total at The Oval this year - for 90 minutes or so, at least. In the chase, the absence of Tymal Mills - after injuring his back in the defeat against Essex on Monday - was keenly felt. They remain well-placed to qualify, but Friday's fixture at home to Middlesex has become something of a must-win.