Last night The Essex Eagles beat The Kent Spitfires to finish on 15 points, putting them in 4th place in the Southern Table, earning themselves a place in the quarter finals. A match against Lancashire at the Emirates Riverside in Durham. In their wisdom the ECB has scheduled the quarter finals to coincide with the Ashes test at Old Trafford. That’s a journey of 144 miles for a home game for Lancashire Lightning and 272 miles for Essex. Some journey for both teams and their fans.

One of the absolute joys of watching cricket in the evening

How did Essex get there? I only managed to watch 2 of the games. Stitching myself up with one home game, I’m mortified that I chose to believe the Met Office on the evening of the home match against Surrey. I missed a remarkable innings from Cameron Delport, he scored 129 from 49 balls, hitting 7 Fours and 14 Sixes. I, was in the cinema watching the Lion King, which was great – but – Argh!! That was a win for Essex by 52 runs after they amassed 226 for 4, they restricted Surrey to 174 in a rain reduced match of 15 overs apiece. That was the second match, Middlesex beat Essex by 7 wickets at Lord’s in the first. The highlight of that match was the 88 from 43 balls scored by AB de Villiers, for Essex, Ryan ten Doeschate scored 74 from 46 balls.

Game 3 saw Essex travel to the Spitfire ground in Canterbury, Kent batted first and scored 175 for 6, with Heino Kuhn top scoring with 55 from 31 balls. In reply Essex scored 153 for 7, ten Doeschate top scored for Essex again with 58 from 46 balls. Kent won by 22 runs.

The rain was the winner as the match in Chelmsford against Gloucestershire was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Hampshire were the next to visit the County Ground, Essex were put into bat and bowled out for 133! Hampshire scored the 134 for 3 to win in 15.4 overs. James Vince scored 87 from 54 balls. A win by 7 wickets for Hampshire.

Essex travelled to Bristol the next day and had a better result, batting first the scored 206 for 3. Delport and Tom Westley put on 81 for the 1st wicket, with Westley finishing 86 not out from 54 balls. Gloucestershire survived their 20 overs making 181 for 5. Ryan Higgins was 77 not out, but Essex won this one by 25 runs.

It was back to the County Ground next for the match against Somerset, they won the toss and batted first, that turned out to be a good thing for those assembled. Somerset made 225 for 6, with Babar Azam, the top ranked T20 batsman in the world, from Pakistan, top scored with 56 from 39 balls. Essex were bowled out for 111, Roelof van der Merwe took 5 for 32 in his 3 overs.

Bearing in mind this competition was running mostly in August, the next 3 matches were rained off, 2 at Chelmsford without a ball being bowled. So, no result against Glamorgan (away) and both Middlesex and Glamorgan at home.

Miracles of all miracles we actually had a county championship game next, a good win for Essex against Kent, and on that high the team went on to Hove to take on Sussex. The team who’ve finished top of the league put Essex in to bat and restricted them to 168 for 5. Two men who’d bagged themselves a pair against Kent earlier in the week scored the bulk of the runs. Dan Lawrence was 59 not out from 43 balls and Ravi Bopara scored 45 from 24. In reply Sussex made 159 for 9, David Wiese top scored with 66 but 4 for 29 from Mohammad Amir and 2 for 19 from the captain Simon Harmer saw Essex win by 9 runs.

Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl saw them put Essex in to bat, in a low scoring game Essex made 139 for 6, an Lawrence again top scored for Essex with 69 from 47 balls. In reply Sam Northeast scored 73 from 56 balls, his team matched Essex’s score however and the match was tied.

That all brings us to the 2 matches I did actually manage to attend, where the rain was nowhere to be seen! First up was Surrey at the Oval, Essex captain Simon Harmer won the toss and elected to bat. At 43 for 3 in the 6th over things weren’t going too well. Along came Essex stalwarts Ryan ten Doeschate and Ravi Bopara. Both seem to be fond of batting at The Oval, ten Doeschate scored 55 from 44 balls and Bopara 70 from 35. Both were not out and Essex finished their 20 overs on 186 for 4.

Surrey found themselves in a similar position at 48 for 4 but had just the one batsman who made a score. Jordan Clark made 60 from 32 balls, Ollie Pope had scored 35. But, a great bowling performance from Essex saw Kent bowled out or 167, Jamie Porter who’d come in as a last minute replacement took 4 for 38 in 3.5 overs, Adam Zampa picked up 2 for 33. Amir restricted things well conceding only 21 runs in his 4 overs, taking the wicket of Gareth Batty as he did so. A win for Essex by 19 runs. That win put Essex into the best possible position to finish in the top 4 if they could beat Kent and have other results go their way.

The ‘Battle of the Bridge’ was the next night at the County Ground, in common with matches against Surrey, games against Kent are always a big deal. I find myself hoping individual players on the opposition team do well however, with an Essex win at the end of the game.

Kent had added Faf du Plessis to their team, something I was quite excited about, I’ve watched him a fair few times playing for South Africa, most recently in the World Cup, the prospect of seeing him play on a small ground was one of those ‘hope he does well, but loses’ scenarios.

Simon Harmer won the toss and elected to bat, I was hoping to see Delport fire and he certainly did, he scored 64 from just 29 balls, including 5 Fours and 5 Sixes. I was unaware that Daniel Bell-Drummond bowled until this season, in this match he took 2 key wickets in consecutive overs, with Delport going first to a catch by Heino Kuhn (Another favourite), before the same man took a catch to despatch ten Doeschate. Essex were 109 for 4 in the 12th over. In came Bopara, he saw Lawrence depart in the next over to be joined by Paul Walter. 112 for 5 moved to 148 for 6 as the pair put on 36 valuable runs.

Bopara finished the innings on 47 from 27, a second not out in 2 days, helping his personal averages and Essex to 189 for 6.

Bell-Drummond opened Kent’s innings with Zak Crawley. Jamie Porter dismissed Bell-Drummond for 10, when Bopara took a stunning catch! Kent were 47 for 1 and Fat du Plessis was in at 3, he’s at 11 in the World rankings for T20. He scored 32 from 21 balls, hitting a Four and 2 Sixes. This was a man who could take the game away from Essex, step up Bopara, another catch and another wicket, this time from the bowing of Adam Zampa.

Kent went from 110 for 2 t0 179 all out as the batsmen from 4 to 11 made just 34 runs between them. Zac Crawley is just 21, at 6ft 5 he’s an unusual sight as an opening batsman. He’d failed against Essex in the county championship match, I was therefore glad he fell into the down well, but losing category. He scored 89 from 55 balls, hitting 9 Fours and 4 Sixes, he was an impressive sight, his was the 4th wicket to fall as he skied a ball to be caught by Harmer. Essex had a win by 10 runs and leap frogged Kent into 4th place as Glamorgan got themselves an unlikely win against Hampshire to finish their aspirations of a quarter final spot.

A quick look at the batting averages for Essex so far

  • Dan Lawrence – 11 matches, 10 innings, 345 runs with 2 N/O an average of 43.12
  • Ravi Bopara – 9 matches, 8 innings, 189 runs 3 with N/O an average of 37.80
  • Ryan ten Doeschate – 11 matches, 10 innings, 222 runs with 4 N/O an average of 37.0
  • Tom Westley – 11 matches, 11 innings, 280 runs with 2 N/O an average of 31.11

Bowling averages

  • Mohammad Amir – 8 matches, 7 innings, 10 wickets, 201 runs, average 20.10, Economy 7.44
  • Ravi Bopara – 9 matches, 7 innings, 8 wickets, 184 runs, average 23.00, Economy 7.66
  • Adam Zampa – 11 matches, 10 innings, 12 wickets, 313 runs, average 26.08, Economy 8.02

The photos are a bit random, the light at Essex isn’t good enough to take photos of both innings,

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