Surrey have had a disastrous opening to their 50-over Royal London One-Day Cup campaign.
Anything other than a victory against Essex at the Oval today will effectively end their chances in the competition that has seen the South Londoners reach three out of the last four finals.
Given the bloody nose they received at the hands of Gloucestershire at Bristol last Wednesday, when Surrey were skittled out for 88 – their lowest List A total for 14 years – the only surprise is that Kent and Glamorgan sit below them in the South Division table after two rounds of matches.
Surrey faired better with the bat against Sussex at Hove on Good Friday, posting 274-9 in their 50 overs.
But even with two of the seamers in England’s provisional squad for the World Cup, not to mention wily operators with the ball such as Morne Morkel, Rikki Clarke and Gareth Batty, Sussex could not be contained.
The Sharks snuck home with 11 deliveries to spare thanks to David Wiese’s unbeaten 92 off 81 balls. But for Tom Curran’s 3-37, the seasiders would have won at a canter.
While Curran senior now looks odds-on to feature in the World Cup – which gets underway in just over a month – team-mate Liam Plunkett is in danger of missing out.
The former Durham and Yorkshire speedster has only taken two wickets at an average of 104.50 for his new county, and at a cost of 6.74 runs per over.
After the two-wicket defeat at Hove, Surrey skipper Rory Burns praised Curran.
“Tom bowled really well,” said Burns. “At the end, there, I was basically telling him we need some wickets, so do whatever you can to try and find me something.
“With the bat we were probably slightly under par. With the ball, Sussex got off to a quick start, but we dragged it back by taking wickets at key times, so it was disappointing to lose in the end.
“I don’t think we’ve been a million miles away. Obviously Bristol was something to forget, but I think we played some decent cricket today [Friday].”
Reflecting on Surrey’s 147-run drubbing two days earlier, head coach Michael Di Venuto said it was a case of delivering out in the middle.
“It’s a matter now of dusting ourselves down,” said Di Venuto. “We’ve got some serious quality in that dressing room. On paper we’ve got a terrific team – but you don’t win games on paper.
“You have got to put all those names together, take it out on to the park and play as a team. Today [Friday], we didn’t do that.
“We didn’t have individuals stand up with the bat, we didn’t have any partnerships, we just didn’t play well.
“We had a poor day, and it’s pretty consistent – when we do have poor days we have really really poor days.”
The Tasmanian added: “That was really disappointing, particularly with the bat.
“It would have been really nice to start this competition with a win, but we haven’t done it for a few years and we continued that trend first up.
“We just didn’t adapt to the conditions that were in front of us. We also didn’t have much luck along the way with strangles down the leg-side and a hit wicket. Typically, when you’re chasing your tail like that, things go against you, which they did.
“Rikki Clarke and Tom Curran had a really good partnership up front with the ball.
“Both bowled really well and we fought back and squeezed Gloucestershire.
“At the halfway mark, needing 236 to win, although we knew it wasn’t going to be a simple chase, we thought their total was below par and we were certainly looking forward to our run chase.”