Jason Roy produced one of his trademark top-order assaults to spearhead Surrey’s three-wicket NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final win over Worcestershire Rapids at the Kia Oval.
Roy’s stunning 52 from 23 balls, including three sixes and eight fours, sent last season’s runners-up back to final day, while ending the Rapids’ hopes of reaching the showpiece event for the very first time.
Roy’s destruction took him to the top of the Blast’s runscorer’s chart – with 619 from 14 innings at an average of 47.61 - and he has now hit six half-centuries in eight innings on his home turf.
While his team-mates wobbled after Roy’s exit, they eventually overhauled the Rapids’ modest 141 for nine with 3.3 overs to spare.
Robin Peterson finished matters in the 17th over by swinging Shaaiq Choudhry’s left-arm spin for six and then driving the next ball through mid-off for four.
After the six-over powerplay at the start of their innings, Surrey had rushed to 68 for two thanks to Roy’s fireworks.
At the four-over mark, indeed, Roy had made 46 from 19 balls out of Surrey’s first 49 runs as even the two proven world-class batsmen in the top three, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kevin Pietersen, were forced to take a back seat.
Sri Lankan veteran Dilshan was out for one, caught at fine-leg as he attempted one of his famous ‘Dilscoops’ against Jack Shantry’s medium-pace.
Pietersen - apart from one gorgeous on-driven four - was initially content to watch from the other end as Roy laid into the Worcestershire bowling.
Mitch McClenaghan’s first two overs went for 33 runs as he bore the brunt of Roy’s stroke-making.
When Roy was out, mis-hitting Shantry to mid-on from the fourth ball of the sixth over, it was left to Pietersen and the rest of Surrey’s international-packed middle order to complete the job.
Pietersen hit 29 from 27 balls, with five fours, but he then pulled Joe Leach to mid-on at the start of the 12th over and Surrey made rather heavy weather of the remaining chase.
Surrey were 104 for four when Pietersen departed, with Gary Wilson already back in the dugout when he was caught off Leach for 12.
When Rory Burns was brilliantly run out for two by Brett D’Oliveira’s direct hit from cover, the scoreboard suddenly showed 106 for five and the Rapids sensed they still had half a chance.
Azhar Mahmood swung one six before top-edging a hook at McClenaghan to long leg on nine, and Zafar Ansari was also undone by the short ball, gloving Colin Munro to keeper Ben Cox for two.
From 128 for seven, however, there were no further alarms for Surrey as Peterson - who finished unbeaten on 24 from 12 balls - saw them home in the company of Gareth Batty.
Having been put into bat, Worcestershire suffered from losing wickets at regular intervals with Jade Dernbach, Matthew Dunn and Peterson claiming two wickets apiece.
Remarkably, seven of their batsmen were bowled as they struggled on a slightly slowish pitch.
After cutting Dilshan for four in first over of the game, Daryl Mitchell was run out trying to scamper a single before Peterson had Tom Kohler-Cadmore dragging on to his stumps to make it 39 for two.
Munro reverse swept his first delivery for four only to lose his middle stump to Dunn, playing another premeditated shot.
Ross Whiteley swept Batty for four before clubbing the former Worcestershire off-spinner to the long-on boundary for a four and a six. The bowler had the last laugh when the 25-year-old left-hander was bowled for 17.
Cox joined the procession of batsmen to be bowled as he had his off and middle stumps uprooted by Dunn, before the visitors were reduced to 97 for six when opener Richard Oliver was dismissed by Peterson for a 36-ball 34.
Dernbach then accounted for Leach and Choudhry - brilliantly caught behind by Wilson - before Shantry was bowled by Mahmood in the 20th over, though not before he had lifted the veteran all-rounder over long-on for six.
Surrey captain Wilson said: "We made it a bit hard for ourselves towards the end but it's great to get over the line and get through to finals day. That is one of the biggest days in the domestic calendar and so we are delighted to be involved.
"Jason Roy set it up for us so well but people then got in and didn't carry on. I think it was quite a slow pitch and therefore not as easy as Jason made it look, but even though we got to the win target with 3.3 overs to spare the seven wickets we lost made it a bit of an issue."
Roy added: "It was good fun out there and a lot of credit must go to our bowlers who I thought were quality in keeping Worcestershire down to 141. I have worked hard on my short-form game, and I just try to express myself."
Steve Rhodes, Worcestershire's director of cricket, said: "I didn't think it was a bad score. We thought we could win with that score. But, if you look at the whole day, most of the batters have struggled to score on that wicket apart from Jason Roy.
"Take away Roy's fifty off 20-odd balls on a wicket that was difficult to score on and that's the difference. It was a major match-winning innings for Surrey and that's the reason why he has been picked to play for the England Lions."