NICK Kimber’s magnificent assault on the Warwickshire bowling earned Surrey a tie in a Royal London Cup thriller at the Kia Oval.

The 21-year-old all-rounder cracked six sixes in hammering 84 in a dramatic bid to snatch what seemed certain victory for the Bears as the hosts – who had entered the final ten overs needing 101 – seemed poised to steal the most unlikely of wins.

Replying to a challenging 293-5, the much-depleted side looked set for a trouncing at 79-4 but benefited from the rebuilding work of Josh Blake (40) and Nico Reifer (53), then being back in trouble at 184-7 in the 39th.

Kimber refused to concede defeat, though, taking three sixes off one over from Rob Yates and making his highest List A score, which only ended when he was bowled by Indian left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya.

Matt Dunn took up the fight, with only last man Yousef Majid for company, hitting 34 in 19 balls to bring the scores level going into the final over. But he was bowled by a fine yorker from Liam Norwell to tie the match.

A vastly more experienced Warwickshire side had been in their own tight spot earlier at 89-3 yet Michael Burgess (93) and Pandya (74) hammered 160 from 25 overs, a major bonus for Surrey being the return to form of off-spinner Amar Virdi, whose 10 overs yielded 1-36 and could easily have brought much more reward.

That result left Surrey placed fifth out of nine in Group A of a competition which they have entered with a skeleton side, much of their squad called away by the demands of international calls, the high profile Hundred competition and injuries. Repeating last year’s achievement of reaching the semi-finals is unlikely but it offers an excellent opportunity for youngsters like Kimber – who has featured little in three injury-scarred seasons at the club – and Reifer to show what they can do.

Surrey included four debutants at List A level when well beaten by Leicestershire at Guildford in the opening match.

Losing two of their senior players – Ryan Patel (0) and Cameron Steel (9) – to South African international Beuran Hendricks (4-39) early on meant posting a competitive total was always likely to be difficult, despite acting captain Ben Geddes (73) and Blake (44) adding 105 for the third wicket.

Left-hander Blake, one of the quartet of new boys, impressed in his gritty innings and underlined the determination which has seen him reach the professional ranks at the age of 23 with a two-and-a-half year contract, despite a variety of setbacks.

Once they were parted the biggest contribution came from Reifer, who batted sensibly with a crumbling tail in making 45 as his side reached 246-8.

Woodbridge Road’s short boundaries were always likely to make that score hard to defend and Leicestershire were guided to an eight-wicket victory with ten overs to spare by Nick Welch. The hard-hitting opener was familiar enough with the ground, having made a century there for his club Wimbledon in the Surrey Championship T20 final just nine days earlier. He cracked 16 fours and a six to finish with 127no, adding an unbroken 141 with Wiaan Mulder (71no) to secure victory by seven wickets.

Two days later, though, came a fine turnaround when Durham were hammered by nine wickets at Gosforth.

Having sent in the hosts, Surrey’s makeshift attack were grateful for two early breakthroughs from fit-again Dunn after England opener Alex Lees had dragged on a delivery from the impressive Tom Lawes. The pressure was maintained by paceman Conor McKerr (2-19) and young left-arm spinner Yousef Majid, who built on the excellent impression he made at Guildford by claiming 2-41. Kimber chipped in with a brace of victims, the home side being grateful to Liam Trevaskis (55) to make 181 all out.

Despite losing Geddes for 35, Surrey surged to a nine-wicket success as Patel (67no) and Steel (68) put on 128 as Surrey knocked off the runs in 29 overs to start the long journey home early.

Surrey head to Hove on Sunday to play Sussex, hosting Gloucestershire at The Oval on Wednesday.