Dawid Malan blazed his way to the highest T20 score of his career with a brilliant 117 as Middlesex completed a resounding 37 run victory over Surrey.
Chasing 210, Ollie Pope — playing his first senior match in three months after dislocating his shoulder — mustered 47 for the hosts but Middlesex’s early wickets doomed Surrey.
Malan’s innings was a thing of beauty. He square drove his first ball to the rope but largely played second fiddle in the powerplay, with Stevie Eskinazi taking boundaries off all three of Surrey’s opening overs.
Malan struggled early against Rikki Clarke’s array of slower balls but took particular liking to the spin of Gareth Batty and Imran Tahir. He swept Tahir hard before plonking Batty’s fifth ball back into the Pavilion.
Tahir’s return brought more joy, the South African slog swept for six and whipped through midwicket for Malan’s half-century, from just 24 balls, as Middlesex made a blistering start, plundering 109 from the first ten overs.
The onslaught continued with Liam Plunkett — whose introduction to the attack was richly applauded by the 23,708 spectators inside The Oval — pulled square and fine for six and four. Batty’s second and final over went for 22, Malan depositing him back over his head and slog sweeping six in consecutive balls.
All but one of Malan’s seven sixes came against spin, with Tahir slapped over mid on from outside off stump. The left-hander brought up his third T20 century from 49 balls, the fastest of his career, on the same ground where he scored his maiden T20 hundred — in the 2008 quarter-final against Lancashire.
Malan put Jade Dernbach back over mid on before being dropped at deep midwicket a ball later, a simple chance spilled for four by Tom Curran, to add further punishment in the penultimate over. Curran redeemed himself in the last over, having him superbly caught behind by Pope, as Middlesex ended 209-3.
Surrey never looked like getting close. Will Jacks went tamely in the first over, chipping Mujeeb Ur Rahman to short midwicket for just one. Aaron Finch cut the Afghanistan spinner to the boundary but fell in the fourth over, inside edging a straight drive behind to leave them in disarray at 21-2.
Pope looked to take the attack to Middlesex. He cut his first and fourth delivery to the boundary and slapped Toby Roland-Jones over wide mid off. He pulled another four over deep square and clipped six there a ball later, but Roland-Jones had him caught on the deep midwicket boundary for 47 — the first of four wickets for the seamer.
In between times, Mark Stoneman was positive but batted within himself, stroking the ball nicely square of the wicket. He was given a life when dropped by AB de Villiers at long off but top edged to point three balls later.
Clarke plundered consecutive boundaries, but was well caught on the deep square boundary by Nick Gubbins while looking to go big. Jordan Clark sent Steven Finn over long on but was beaten for pace trying to do the same to Tom Helm.
Curran tried to salvage what he could, tickling a pair of boundaries fine and hitting Sowter over his head, but he was caught superbly by Finn at long off, diving to his right, to end any slim Surrey hopes.
Eskinazi had earlier reached 42 before being bowled trying to pull Curran. AB de Villiers struck 88 on Middlesex debut last week but was controversially given out lbw on three, reverse sweeping Tahir but with replays showing he got a faint edge.
George Scott played a good cameo role, taking 35 and impressively hitting six off Dernbach, ducking with his bat vertical and finding the long leg boundary. But it was Malan’s domination that took the game for Middlesex.