Tom Curran defended just ten runs off the final over to guide his side to an opening win in this year’s T20 Blast.
Essex, with seven wickets in hand, looked in control needing 60 off the last six overs. But an inspired Curran took 3-28 from his four overs, including 12 crucial dot balls, to snatch a win for Surrey.
Earlier, after being put in to bat, Aaron Finch smashed a typically brutal 56 off just 27 deliveries including six fours and three sixes. New signing Mohammad Amir had the big wicket of Jason Roy with just his fourth delivery, although the ball did strike Roy outside line and was missing the off stump.
Three more wickets fell, along with Finch, before the halfway stage to leave Surrey in trouble at 86-5 after 11 overs.
However, Dominic Sibley, who was probably only in the side due to the absence of Kumar Sangakkara and Kevin Pietersen, held the innings together brilliantly with 61 (40) as Surrey finished on 188-8. He found good company in Sam Curran during a partnership of 55 in 5.1 overs.
Mohammad Amir (1-32) impressed on his T20 blast debut, although he did bowl four wides, two of which came when Essex were in danger of exceeding their allotted time. Ravi Bopara (2-23) was the pick of the bowlers as his variations worked to good effect.
Essex made a solid start but lost both openers in the power play, the Curran brothers doing the damage. After Tom Westley made a brisk 23; Ravi Bopara (75) and Ryan ten Doeschate (25) put their side in the driving seat with a partnership of 60 inside seven overs.
Ten an over looked to be a comfortable task on such a high-scoring ground, especially when Bopara took 15 from the 19th. But Tom Curran, trusted by stand-in captain Jade Dernbach, bowled an outstanding last over that included just two runs off the bat and two wickets – one from a perfect yorker which accounted for Bopara, and a brilliant slower ball to get rid of the dangerous Zaidi.
Both sides play again this Sunday. Essex will look to bounce back away at Kent, while Surrey entertain Somerset at home.