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Leaders Surrey keep Sharks at bay

Veteran all-rounder Azhar Mahmood held his nerve to help Surrey clinch a tense three-run win over Sussex Sharks in a low-scoring Friends Life t20 thriller in front of a 12,000 crowd at the Kia Oval.

With the Sharks requiring 12 for victory from the final over, Azhar, playing in his 181st Twenty20 match, restricted the visitors to eight to secure Surrey's third successive win that keeps them top of the South Group.

In pursuit of 140 for victory under the floodlights, Sussex reached 11 before losing their first three wickets without addition to the score and in the space of only seven deliveries.

Wily seamer Azhar had Chris Nash and former Surrey skipper Rory Hamilton-Brown caught behind off successive balls. Then, in the next over, Jon Lewis enticed Luke Wright to chop on to make it 11 for three.

Dwayne Smith, the all-rounder from Barbados, lit up proceedings by taking 22 off one Zander de Bruyn over - including a brace of sixes and two fours - to put Sussex well ahead of the asking rate.

The first of Smith's maximums was caught in the crowd by a fan Martin Winfield, who won £1,000 from Surrey's sponsors for his troubles.

However, with 53 on the board and 26 to his name, Smith worked across the line to Lewis to go leg before and leave Lewis with 2-15 and the game finely balanced.

Michael Yardy chipped in with a run-a-ball 27 for the visitors before being stumped off Gareth Batty. Then Joe Gatting enjoyed a let-off when de Bruyn dropped a skier at point that would have made it 90 for six.

To add insult to injury, de Bruyn then conceded 13 off his next over as, with four overs left, the Sharks reduced their target to 31.

Jade Dernbach returned to pluck out Gatting's off stump but, when Scott Styris clipped an Azhar full-toss for six, the asking rate dropped to 14 from 12 balls.

Then, with eight balls remaining Dernbach yorked Styris for a valiant 46 from 33 balls to tilt the balance Surrey's way and when Glenn Maxwell ran out Chris Jordan it was left to Azhar to polish the job off.

Having won their fourth successive FLt20 toss, Surrey's innings started dramatically when a crisp, early Jason Roy straight drive felled bowler's end umpire Trevor Jesty.

The former Hampshire player received treatment to his left shoulder and gamely carried on, with thanks from bowler Jordan for having saved a certain boundary.

Sussex made their first breakthrough in the following over when left-arm paceman Chris Liddle bamboozled Steven Davies with a slower ball that the Surrey left-hander chipped into the hands of Wright at mid-off to make it 26 for one.

Roy's bad luck continued when he departed leg before for 29 when working across the line against Styris, and Ricky Ponting's Oval debut for Surrey then ended after only 11 balls.

Backing away to loft a darting arm-ball from Yardy over extra-cover, the former Australia captain picked out Smith on the ropes at wide long-off to go for six.

Eight runs on, fellow Australian Maxwell clipped another comfortable catch to Smith, this time at deep midwicket, to give Yardy - one of seven Sussex bowlers used - tidy figures of 2-16.

Surrey attempted to regroup through Gary Wilson and Azhar, but the former Pakistan all-rounder departed for only five when his bottom-handed drive against leg-spinner Will Beer flew to Jordan patrolling the long-off boundary.

Surrey limped to three figures in the 16th over but, with his score on 10, left-hander Zafar Ansari was squared up by an excellent Jordan leg-cutter and edged to the wicketkeeper.

Wilson finished as top-scorer with an unbeaten 44 from 37 deliveries and even spanked Liddle's last ball into the OCS Stand for six.

Surrey's total of 139 still appeared inadequate, but proved just enough.

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