Just for a moment yesterday, it looked as if Staffordshire might pull off a remarkable triumph.
At 47 for four, Surrey found themselves in trouble from which they struggled to escape. They eventually crept home with seven balls to spare; but for a side that has won the County Championship three times in the past decade to creep past a team of club cricketers is hardly impressive.
A win for Staffs would have been seen as a victory for the romantic; the strutting all-stars of Surrey brought down to earth by the local heroes.
Seven of the Staffordshire side were born within the county and, in this final year of minor counties taking on the professionals, the victory would have sent an eloquent message to the England & Wales Cricket Board.
But there are good practical reasons for wishing this competition retains its current format. Few of the 2,000 spectators at Highfield yesterday are regular visitors to county cricket, so fixtures like this are the game's opportunity to attract new supporters.
The current format also allows the sponsor to appeal directly to all corners of the country, rather than just the 18 first-class counties.
In truth, the visitors' lineup bore little relation to the full-strength Surrey side. Beset by injuries, they could only field two frontline bowlers (Rikki Clarke played as a batsman after injuring his ankle), and can count themselves fortunate to have scraped home.
The pitch, tended by Malcolm Tweats (father of former Derbyshire player, Tim), was in remarkably fine fettle, unlike the press tent, which had blown into the beautiful Churnet valley. On a slow but even track, there were runs aplenty, particularly with the short outfields and Surrey can count themselves fortunate their threadbare attack escaped so lightly.
For it was Staffs' batting that let them down. Their bowlers lost nothing in comparison to Surrey's and, had they been prepared to attack a little more, they might even have sneaked victory.
Peter Wilshaw, a 17-yearold affiliated with Nottinghamshire, produced some sweet legside strokes and local teacher Richard Harvey hit over the top intelligently in a fourth-wicket stand of 80.
But the lower order could do little but block and the relative worth of their total was more than a little the result of the 46 extras (including 23 wides) that Surrey's illdisciplined attack donated.
The total was perhaps 30 short of being truly competitive but, a few overs into Surrey's reply, it looked as if it may be enough.
Scott Newman departed first ball, leaden-footed to one that nipped back from Alfonso Thomas before David Follett defeated Jonathan Batty in similar fashion and James Benning pulled to mid-wicket.
Follett, running in from the Rudyard End (local rumour has it that Mr and Mrs Kipling so enjoyed their holiday at near-by Rudyard Lake they named their son in its honour; rather like Brooklyn Beckham), is 36 now and plies his trade as a nagging medium-pacer at Walsall. But in his day he was good enough to take eight for 22 for Middlesex against Durham and his immaculate line, length and use of the conditions was exemplary.
His opening spell of eight overs produced three wickets and cost just 14 and with former Middlesex and Pakistan A leg-spinner Imran Tahir weighing in with ten beautifully controlled overs, Staffs sustained the pressure.
A stand of 65 for the fifth wicket between Ali Brown and Mark Ramprakash seemed to have settled matters but when Imran's spin defeated Brown's charge and Ramprakash was run-out for 49 attempting a second by James Benstead's fine throw, the result was still in doubt.
In the end it took the only six of the game to settle matters; Martin Bicknell launching Thomas over long-off to secure his ordinary side a victory they scarcely deserved.
And perhaps Staffs deserved better. The record books will barely reflect the scare they gave their famous guests and their hard work turned out to be vain. But they were a credit to the minor counties and will be greatly missed in this competition next year.