Eagles fall to fired-up Hampshire
Hampshire Royals took their place in the Friends Provident t20 final, their first domestic Twenty20 showpiece, as a much-changed Essex Eagles side misfired spectacularly in the opening semi-final at the Rose Bowl.
Dwayne Bravo, flown over from the Caribbean at great expense for one day only, made just five runs and then shelled 46 in four overs as the Royals took a six-wicket win with four balls to spare.
Chasing 157 to win, Hampshire made serene progress to 67 without loss, suffering only a minor mid-innings wobble before being taken home calmly by Neil McKenzie and Michael Carberry’s unbroken 30-run partnership.
Hampshire started their chase positively, with the in-form Jimmy Adams depositing Bravo over midwicket for six in the second over.
Pakistan’s Abdul Razzaq followed suit soon after, taking two fours off the all-rounder as his first 12 deliveries leaked 20.
Razzaq’s assault continued with four down the ground off Chris Wright and a drilled six to bring up the Hampshire 50 off compatriot Danish Kaneria.
Razzaq had 44 off 31 balls when he miscued Wright to Ravi Bopara at point, but Adams and James Vince moved the total to 75 after 10 overs.
James Foster, usually so impressive with the gloves, missed a stumping chance off Kaneria to reprieve Adams, who duly swept the next ball to the ropes.
Foster made amends in the 13th over, stumping Vince for 15 and Adams followed quickly for 34, Bopara striking to make it 101 for three.
Those wickets stalled the hosts, who saw the required rate edge over 10 with four overs left.
Sean Ervine took six and four off the first two balls of Bravo’s comeback over, but the bowler belatedly responded by locating his middle stump.
Bravo shipped 12 off the 19th over, leaving a target of just five more. Carberry and Neil McKenzie reached that easily enough in driving rain.
All eyes were on the out-of-sorts Alastair Cook when finals day got under way but he was denied the strike early on as Mark Pettini set about busily picking up ones and twos.
The England batsman hit his first boundary in the fourth over, an unconvincing bottom edge to long-leg, but he soon hit his stride.
The left-hander clubbed two big sixes to the on-side as Essex picked up the rate after adding 48 in the six powerplay overs, while Pettini cashed in having been dropped by Dominic Cork on 25.
Cook was looking confident when he fell softly, steering a loose Dan Christian delivery into the hands of Danny Briggs at short fine-leg for a 22-ball 38.
Bopara then came and went for just two, wicketkeeper Michael Bates taking a smart catch off the impressive Briggs.
Unafraid to give the ball flight, the 19-year-old left-arm spinner was rewarded with 3-29, part of a seven-over spell in which five Essex wickets went down.
Briggs added his second when Ryan ten Doeschate holed out to long-on for a single and Pettini became his third victim shortly after bringing up a well-paced 55.
Bravo’s dismal display then began as he was run out by Chris Wood for a scratchy five.
Matt Walker made 18 and Foster 12 at the end of the innings, but 156 for seven never appeared a sufficient benchmark.