Essex Eagles through to Vitality Blast Finals day after convincing win over Lancashire Lightning
Ravi Bopara hit four sixes in a stunning 39 not out off only 18 balls to take Essex to a fifth Vitality Blast Finals Day as they chased 160 to beat Lancashire by six wickets with four balls remaining at Durham’s Emirates Riverside in a thrilling quarter-final.
Lancashire Lightning 159 – 5
Essex Eagles 165 – 4
Result - Essex Eagles won by 6 wickets
Bopara also claimed two wickets, but his key contribution was smashing two of three sixes off Liam Livingstone’s leg-spin in the penultimate over to reduce the target from 23 off two overs to one off the last.
He shared 60 unbroken in five overs for the fifth wicket with captain Ryan ten Doeschate, who top-scored with 45 off 31.
Hosts Lancashire, forced away from Emirates Old Trafford due to a clash with the Ashes Test, lost their first T20 match at Durham in eight.
Opener Alex Davies top-scored with an unbeaten 80 off 55 balls in Lancashire’s 159 for five, sharing a fourth-wicket partnership of 89 in 11 overs with captain Dane Vilas (41).
The Lightning were forced into a rebuilding job after the departures of Livingstone, Steven Croft and Australian Glenn Maxwell inside the first seven overs, leaving them at 47 for three.
Livingstone was bowled having a heave at Aaron Beard five balls into the match before Ravi Bopara had Croft caught at deep mid-wicket with his first ball and Maxwell lbw.
Davies and Vilas then ran Essex ragged with twos aplenty into the gaps.
For the visitors, this fixture could hardly have been further from Chelmsford on two counts - distance and dimensions of the playing area.
Lancashire had ordered the boundaries to be pushed right out to suit their plethora of pace off options with the ball, and Vilas hit the only six of the innings when he pulled Cameron Delport’s medium pacers over deep square-leg with the last ball of the 16th over (118 for three). Davies reached his fifty off 40 balls.
While new ball seamer Beard struck twice, Bopara (two for 28 from four overs) and captain Simon Harmer (nought for 13 from three) were the pick of the Essex bowlers.
Tom Westley hit two boundaries off Croft in the first over of the chase before offering a simple caught and bowled chance to Saqib Mahmood’s third ball in the second over - nine for one.
Rained delayed proceedings for 29 minutes, meaning no loss of overs, at 14 for one after 3.1 overs.
Delport then hit three fours - two cut - off James Faulkner in the sixth to help Essex to a healthy 49 for one.
But, when trying to clear deep mid-wicket off Maxwell’s off-spinners at the start of the ninth over, he holed out to Croft running around from long-on for 44.
Then, next ball, Adam Wheater was run out going for two by a direct hit from Josh Bohannon running in from deep square-leg (66 for three).
Ten Doeschate and Dan Lawrence, Essex’s leading Blast run-scorer this season, took the sting out of the situation with a partnership of 39 built in identical fashion to that of Davies and Vilas earlier.
But the latter was brilliantly caught at long-off by a diving Faulkner off Livingstone’s leg-spin in the 15th over as the Eagles slipped to 105 for four, needing 55 more.
The target then became 35 off three overs with ten Doeschate and Bopara together.
Bopara hit Faulkner for six over long-off, tipped over the boundary by a diving Croft, to take the target to 23 off two, before continuing his assault to secure a Finals Day berth at Edgbaston on September 21.
TURNING POINT: Ravi Bopara hit two of three sixes in the penultimate over off Liam Livingstone’s leg-spin to take the target from 23 off two overs to only one off the last.
SHOT OF THE MATCH: Bopara viciously pulled Livingstone for six over mid-wicket to take the target from 22 off 11 balls to 16 off 10.
UNSUNG HERO: Cameron Delport hit 44 at the start of the Essex chase to get his team ahead of the rate.
WHAT’S NEXT: Both sides return to Specsavers County Championship action next Tuesday (10.30am). Essex lead Division One by two points from Somerset with three rounds remaining and face Warwickshire at Edgbaston. Lancashire, top of Division Two, could be promoted when they host Derbyshire at Emirates Old Trafford. They need a maximum of 24 points from their final three games to earn an immediate return to the top flight.
Lancashire Lightning - Alex Davies, Liam Livingstone, Steven Croft, Keaton Jennings, Glenn Maxwell, Dane Vilas(c)(wk), James Faulkner, Josh Bohannon, Saqib Mahmood, Richard Gleeson, Matthew Parkinson
Essex Eagles - Cameron Delport, Tom Westley, Adam Wheater(wk), Dan Lawrence, Ryan ten Doeschate, Ravi Bopara, Paul Walter, Simon Harmer(c), Aaron Beard, Jamie Porter, Adam Zampa
Start Time: 19:00
Toss: Essex Eagles won the toss and decided to field
Venue: Emirates Riverside, Chester-le-Street
Officials: Martin Saggers, Michael Burns, Jeremy Lloyds
Lancashire captain Dane Vilas
"We're very disappointed. It's obviously tough when you play so well in the competition and you get to the quarter-finals and lose.
"We've had a good campaign, but it's a hard way to end. Winning the group means nothing when you lose a game like this.
"I made one or two poor decisions, which let us down. But the team tried their hearts out. I'm very proud of their efforts.
"Coming on and off for rain, it was difficult. The pitch greased up a bit and made it a bit easier to bat. But I don't want to take anything away from the way Essex batted because they played beautifully.
"I spoke to Al Davies and some of the guys who thought the best option (for the penultimate over) was Liam. They wanted a bit of pace. It's a tough one because Matt Parkinson has been my go to guy for the whole season. I don't want to blame Livvy, I'm not saying that. But, looking back with hindsight, I should have maybe given the ball to Parky because he's been in more situations like that."
Essex's Ryan ten Doeschate
"It's a great achievement (to get to Finals Day), particularly with the way we fought back in the last few group games.
"Conditions changed and got slightly easier (for batting). They bowled beautifully in the first 12 overs, but our plan was to stay in the game and have a flourish at the end.
"Ravi's had three man-of-the-match performances in a row, and I knew if I stuck in either him or Dan Lawrence would eventually get a few boundaries away. And we've done it at a canter in the end.
"Duckworth Lewis is always a good indicator of where you are, and we were there and thereabouts all the way through. I was very conscious of that.
"James Faulkner is a very good bowler, so the plan was to sit in against him. We knew we'd get a big over somewhere else. Ravi hitting his last ball for six (end of the 18th, taking the target to 23 off two overs) I think was the turning point.
"Ravi was then determined to get it done in the 19th, and he picked his balls very well."
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