Ollie Pope’s unbeaten 99 failed to cheer him up as Surrey suffered their first defeat of this year’s Vitality Blast.

They went down to Sussex by 36 runs at the Kia Oval, having started this year’s T20 competition with three straight victories.

Sussex nosed ahead on net run rate at the top of the South Group courtesy of Sunday’s win against Gloucestershire, who are Surrey’s opponents at The Oval on Friday.

Acting captain Pope’s disappointment – made more acute by the scoreboard initially showing he had reached his maiden T20 century – was obvious after his side had allowed Sussex to reach 213 for seven.

“We were under par but Sussex played really well. They probably got 15 above par, then we lost a couple of early wickets and when that happens the run rate can go up quite quickly. The pitch was really good and Tom Curran and Dan Lawrence bowled well.”

And he added: “It was a bit frustrating because 99 was showing on the scoreboard and I took a single for the hundred.

“If I’d known I’d have tried to get two more but it’s not a big deal.”

Sussex were given a rapid start by Australian Dan Hughes, whose 65 from 43 balls took toll of Surrey’s bowlers having their worst day of the campaign. But when he became one of Curran’s three victims at 115 for five in the 12th over, they were still capable of keeping the visitors to within a chaseable total.

But the match was taken away from them by Tom Alsop – whose 68 came from just 35 balls, hitting eight fours and three sixes – and Nathan McAndrew (29) adding 68 in six overs. Off-spinner Lawrence finished with two for 26.

Losing Laurie Evans (12) and Lawrence (six) early in the reply, Surrey were immediately under pressure, Pope and Jason Roy (26) putting on 73 in nine overs but the run rate required was climbing steadily. Once Jamie Smith departed for 18, it was down to Pope and his efforts could not push the hosts beyond 177 for seven by the end. McAndrew claimed three for 32.

The England vice-captain has been uncharacteristically short of runs at first-class level this season but signalled a return to form by making 40 against Somerset five days earlier.

Surrey will need to have made the most of their week between matches, Gloucestershire’s visit followed immediately by a trip for the return with Sussex on Saturday. Surrey then face a Vitality Blast double bill next week with a trip to Lord’s to face Middlesex on Thursday, June 20, followed by a home game against Glamorgan on Friday, June 21.

That is followed by a brief return to County Championship action on June 23, when Surrey travel to Worcestershire, followed by hosting Essex – two points behind in second place – seven days later.

Surrey then return to Vitality Blast action with home games against Middlesex on Friday, July 5, and Kent on Sunday, July 7.

By Richard Spiller