THEY have sealed a Vitality Blast quarter-final spot but Surrey are still not guaranteed a home draw after their unbeaten run since the start of the season finally ended.

It extended all the way from early April to June 23 – through eight first-class and 12 T20 matches – the latest that has been achieved by the county since 1964.

Having led the Blast’s South Group since the start of the competition, Surrey remain top by three points with two matches left – at home to Kent at the Kia Oval on Friday and then travelling to play Somerset at Taunton on Sunday. A win or no result in either would be sufficient to host in the last eight matches, which are scheduled for consecutive evenings between July 5-8.

Surrey had cemented a last eight place in thrilling style, beating Somerset off the last ball to reward a crowd which had struggled through the train and Tube strike to reach the Kia Oval.

A low-scoring match saw the visitors struggle to 144-8, led by Tom Banton’s 39, Gus Atkinson and Conor McKerr claiming two wickets apiece.

But Surrey too found scoring runs was not straightforward, despite opener Will Jacks batting through the innings in responsible style. They still needed nine from the final over, with six wickets remaining, but Jacks lost the strike after taking a single off the first ball from Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle. Skipper Chris Jordan was caught in the deep off the second and although debutant Nico Reifer clipped four off the next, he was castled by the fourth delivery.

Atkinson was bowled by the next ball taking an airy swipe – to the evident frustration of Jacks, marooned at the other end on 66no – to leave Siddle on a hat-trick. But McKerr, making his first appearance of the season, crashed the last delivery to the boundary to a roar from the crowd.

Surrey’s unbeaten run ended, though, when they went down to lowly Sussex by 17 runs at Hove.

They looked set for a 10th win in 11 outings when the hosts slid to 112-5 in the 16th over only for Delray Rawlins (34no) and George Garton (24no) to launch a late assault which lifted Sussex to 172-5. Even then it appeared Surrey had the game under control while Jacks and Laurie Evans (26) raised the reply to 111-2 in the 11th.

But after Evans departed, Jacks – whose fine form could see him joining Surrey’s burgeoning list of internationals soon – could find no decent support in a weakened line-up. His departure for 76 signalled a collapse of six wickets for 16 runs to be all out for 155.

Just like London buses, another defeat followed straight away as Essex won by 43 runs at Chelmsford. Michael Pepper’s ferocious 48 from 18 balls, backed up by Paul Walter’s 49 off 33, drove the hosts to 198-7. The damage might have been greater but for Reece Topley’s 4-37 from four overs on his return from international duty with England in the Netherlands.

But fellow tourist Jason Roy departed for four and despite contributions from Jacks (26), Jamie Smith (30), Rory Burns (37) and Jordan (30), Surrey could only muster 155-9 to be well beaten. Somerset, three points behind, and Essex (four) are the only to two sides who could prevent Surrey from claiming a home draw.

Turning their attention back to the LV County Championship briefly, holding a three-point lead at the top of Division One, Surrey raced to maximum batting points against Kent at The Oval. Having been sent in, they saw Hashim Amla and Ben Geddes make 124 apiece in a third-wicket alliance worth 213. It was South African veteran Amla’s 56th first-class century and youngster Geddes’s maiden Championship ton.