Kumar Sangakkara’s unbeaten 130 saw Surrey clinch a thrilling finish at Wantage Road, winning off the final ball by just one wicket to knock out Northants and reach the Royal London One-Day Cup semi-finals.
Surrey looked to be cruising for much of the inning, chasing 277, but they lost five wickets for 43 runs to leave the target at 24 off 14 balls when last man Jade Dernbach walked to the crease. Sangakkara kept his composure, however, and with 12 required from the final over, he scooped Mohammad Azharullah for six before hitting the winning runs from the final delivery.
It was a remarkable finish to a match that Surrey had dominated for long periods, with only Rory Kleinveldt’s 76 in a last wicket partnership of 49 taking Northants to their total of 276 all out.
It could have been so different if Sangakkara hadn’t been dropped when on just seven. The Sri Lankan went on to guide the run chase home, which looked to be a formality, when Richard Gleeson hobbled off and Alex Wakely went for 24 in four balls after taking over.
That left Surrey needing 116 from the final 25 overs with seven wickets in hand, after Jason Roy had earlier hit 42, but Surrey kept losing regular wickets, and allowed the run rate to creep up. When Gareth Batty and Stuart Meaker were both run out, the game looked up.
But Sangakkara remained, and produced a brilliant scoop before driving the final ball through point to seal the win that takes last season’s finalists Surrey into the last four once again.
Northants, though, will be left to rue a number of key moments, including a collapse of their own. They appeared set for a score well in excess of 300 when on 177-4 at 30 overs, but immediately lost two wickets. It took an unbeaten 76 from Rory Kleinveldt, in a last wicket stand of 49, to add a further 99 runs.
Richard Levi was playing only his second match of the One-day Cup but, after hitting three early boundaries, flicked Dernbach to deep square leg. There was a rare failure for Ben Duckett, when he slapped a short wide Dernbach delivery to cover.
Rob Keogh soon followed, but Josh Cobb and Alex Wakely shared a partnership of 69 that looked to be getting the innings back on track, Cobb taking 19 off one Gareth Batty over.
But a pattern was soon set, of wickets falling just as Northants were kicking on. Cobb was bowled by Tom Curran for 66 whilst Alex Wakely hit two sixes before falling to Sam Curran, five short of a half century.
Rob Newton fell next, and the Northants innings began to unravel further when Graeme White was brilliantly caught by Ben Foakes off Meaker, and Gleeson was bowled. Kleinveldt was left with seven overs to bat alongside last man Azharullah.
He would expertly marshall the strike. Together with big hits, seven fours and three sixes, as they added 49, a record 10th wicket stand for Northants in List A cricket. Of that, Azharullah scored just one before being fooled by a Dernbach slower ball off the penultimate over.
Gleeson bowled Steven Davies round his legs without score and then came the crucial moment, in the sixth over when Sangakkara guided him to Duckett at a short point but the catch couldn’t stick.
That would have left Surry 19-2, but instead Roy and Sangakkara added 86 in 12 overs, Roy just getting into his stride with three boundaries in an Azharullah over before chopping one off the final delivery.
Rory Burns soon followed and the decisive moment looked to come in the 21st over as Gleeson returned, but two balls into his spell he was forced off with a side strain that looks set to rule him out of T20 Finals Day on Saturday.
Wakely, surprisingly, decided to finish the over himself but it proved a disastrous decision. The first ball was a waist high no-ball that Sangakarra pulled for six. Another no ball and three more boundaries followed as the four deliveries cost 24.
From then on all Surrey needed to do was cruise home, with Northants a bowler light, but they almost took it too easy against the part time spin of Cobb and Keogh. Ben Foakes, Sam and Tom Curran all used up deliveries before failing to make substantial contributions, Tom the worst offender with his 13 off 28 balls.
Sangakkara reached his century but then found himself struggling to get the strike as he saw his team mates come and go, Cobb removing both Currans. When James Burke top edged Kleinveldt to Rossington, suddenly 38 was required from the final five overs.
Panic set in and Gareth Batty ran himself out. When Meaker did likewise, with 27 still needed off 14 balls, Northants were sensing a famous victory.
But Sangakkara kept his head when the rest of his side had lost theirs, and Dernbach played his part as the two scrambled the remaining runs. Sangakkara saved his best until last: the scoop of Azharullah that clinched the deal.