Ravi Bopara took 4 for 19 in a parsimonious four-over spell, which coupled with Dan Lawrence’s NatWest T20 Blast best of 47 helped Essex thrash top-of-the-table Hampshire with six overs to spare to climb off the bottom of South Group.
Bopara’s haul took his total this season in the shortest format to nine wickets at 19.33 each. He was supported by an attack who all – bar the unfortunate Simon Harmer – went for less than 6.25 an over. Paul Walter continued to show his enormous promise with figures of 2 for 20 from his four overs.
Hampshire managed just nine fours and a six in their wholly inadequate 129 for 9; the last boundary came halfway through the seventh over. It was the culmination of an unhappy 24 hours in which the south coast county were beaten at home by then-bottom club Sussex to end a three-match unbeaten start to the season.
England debutant Westley has day to forget
England’s new No 3 Tom Westley, who is set to make his Test debut against South Africa at Kia Oval on Thursday, had a day to forget less than a week before the biggest cricketing day of his life.
Not only did he report to Chelmsford with a flu bug, his car broke down en route and he had to make the journey by train.
Westley stayed at the ground to watch part of Essex’s victory, as they moved off the foot of South Group, and is expected to recover in time to make his debut.
Essex were not inconvenienced by the absence through illness of Tom Westley, who had been called up by England on Thursday for next week’s third Test against South Africa. Lawrence slotted comfortably into Westley’s No. 3 position while Adam Wheater filled the vacant opener’s spot and finished with pugnacious unbeaten 44 from 32 balls and six fours.
The portents for Hampshire had not been good from the start after they were put in. Amir went for just a single in the first over and Walter for five in the second, while also claiming the first wicket. Rilee Rossouw was off the mark with an inside edge to the boundary, but perished next ball when he was bowled trying to chop Walter to third man.
That good work was undone in Harmer’s first over. The South African spinner had conceded 26 off an over to Kevin Pietersen at the Oval on Wednesday, and his first over here went for 24. Michael Carberry cut successive fours backward of square before Vince top-edged another four and then chipped the bowler back over his head for six.
Vince went for 29 to Bopara’s first ball, edging behind to one he had to stretch to reach outside off-stump. Harmer returned for a second over and showed great control to bowl up in the block holes in an over that went for just four. The pressure back on, Tom Alsop attempted to hit Bopara over the top and holed out to Ryan ten Doeschate at deep mid-off.
Carberry had hit three fours in a steady 30 before he cut once too often, hammering Bopara straight to Wheater at point. Bopara was in the action again, catching a full-blooded drive at cover from Shahid Afridi off Ashar Zaidi. When George Bailey clipped Matt Dixon to Varun Chopra on the midwicket boundary, Hampshire were 101 for 6 from 15 overs.
That was soon 109 for 7 as Lewis McManus backed away to cut Bopara and turned to see his bails flying. Three runs later Kyle Abbott looked to give himself room and played a delivery from Walter on to his stumps. Mason Crane then chopped down on a ball from Amir and the ball squirted through to dislodge the bails.
Essex’s reply got off to a disappointing start when Chopra chased one outside off-stump from Abbott and was caught behind for two. But both Wheater and Lawrence retaliated as Abbott’s remaining five balls of the over went for 17 runs, with both batsmen hitting the South Africa straight to the boundary.
Lawrence greeted the arrival of Berg with a ramp-shot for four followed by a more orthodox cover-drive for a second boundary. He tried a reverse-sweep unsuccessfully in Berg’s next over before cutting the bowler for another four. He sent another reverse-sweep off Crane for four and hit the next ball straight for six.
Lawrence’s 33-ball innings ended when he gave Afridi a return catch. He had hit seven fours as well as that six. Zaidi launched Afridi for two sixes over midwicket as Essex raced past the 100 mark in the 12th over. But with a dozen runs required, Zaidi got an outside edge to lob up a catch off Berg to Rossouw at point for 17.
It was left to Bopara to finish it with a six over deep extra cover off a free hit from Berg with plenty to spare.