Kumar Sangakkara produced a batting master class as his 166 from 138 balls led Surrey to their second Lord’s final in four years.
The Sri Lankan left-hander made the highest score in this season’s Royal London Cup as Surrey squeezed out Nottinghamshire by just four runs in a thriller at the Kia Oval and will now face Gloucestershire at Lord’s on September 19.
Chasing 301, the Outlaws were up against it after 17 year-old Sam Curran took two wickets in two balls in his first over and they soon fell to 16 for 3.
But Greg Smith, who owed his first appearance of the season in the competition to the absence of Alex Hales and James Taylor on England duty, led a brave fightback with an outstanding 124 while Samit Patel and Dan Christian both contributed half-centuries.
Smith and Steven Mullaney added 55 from 38 balls towards the end but Nottinghamshire lost crucial momentum when Smith was run out for 124 at the non-striker’s end by Tom Curran in the 48th over after he backed up too far. Curran then held his nerve in the final over, when 14 were needed, with Mullaney’s 42 off 26 balls in vain.
A superb match had been illuminated by a wonderful innings from Sangakkara, who unveiled his full repertoire of strokes. It was also an admirable physical effort by the 37-year-old as a slow pitch and 90 yard square boundaries restricted him to 13 fours and one six in just under three hours at the crease.
Sangakkara came in during the third over after Steven Davies had been caught at slip off left-armer Harry Gurney for four. He might have been run out when he got off the mark with a single into the covers, demolishing his stumps as he scrambled to make his ground, but thereafter he didn’t offer a chance in an innings of increasing authority.
Sangakkara shared stands of 85 for the second wicket with Ben Foakes and 52 for the third with Rory Burns but the most punishing partnership came when Gary Wilson joined him to add 144 in 18 overs.
The pair ran aggresively between the wickets to put pressure on Nottinghamshire in the field and Sangakkara improvised superbly, notably in the 49th over Gurney when he hit successive ramp shots over wicketkeeper Chris Read and a crunching drive through extra cover for a third successive boundary.
He accelerated from 100 to 150 in 29 deliveries as he lodged the second highest one-day score against Nottinghamshire and seventh biggest for Surrey in List A cricket. It was also the highest score in 42 one-day matches between the counties.
Sangakkara failed to clear third man with another ramp shot off the first ball of the final over but departed to a standing ovation as the crowd and the Nottinghamshire players sportingly acknowledged the 36th List A hundred of his career.
Without the firepower of Hales and Taylor, chasing 301 was always going to be a big ask for Nottinghamshire but they came desperately close thanks mainly to Smith’s second List A hundred.
Curran had needed permission to take a day off from studies at Wellington College to play but he struck with successive balls in his first over as Rikki Wessels played on and Brendan Taylor was leg before to a delivery that swung back in.
Jade Dernbach had Michael Lumb caught by the diving Steven Davies at second slip before Patel (51), despite the discomfort of a hamstring injury, put on 91 in 21 overs with Smith.
When Patel departed in the 26th over Christian played aggressively to give Nottinghamshire renewed hope with 54 off 43 balls, including two sixes and three fours. The visitors were still in contention when the last 10 overs began with 92 needed but Christian was caught at backward point off Aneesh Kapil and Surrey’s young attack held their nerve impressively in the closing overs.
Smith’s 124 came off 134 balls with eight fours and a six, but it was to prove in vain.