Napier sparkles in Essex win
Graham Napier inspired a magnificent and unexpected Essex victory by four wickets over Hampshire in their LV= County Championship Division Two match at Chelmsford.
Left a modest target of 143, Essex looked doomed to defeat as they were reduced to 31 for six in the 12th over.
But Napier launched an assault on the visiting attack to score his second half-century of the match and lead his side to the winning post without further loss thanks to an unbeaten 78.
Sharing the plaudits with him was Mark Pettini, who contributed 35 of their unbroken partnership of 112.
Their heroics came after David Balcombe and James Tomlinson had each claimed a couple of wickets - the former bowling England captain Alastair Cook for four.
Essex also contributed to their own problems with two senseless run-outs while Ravi Bopara was dismissed for a duck.
An horrendous mix-up debating a third run led to Tom Westley's dismissal several yards from safety and James Foster was removed by George Bailey's direct throw from short cover, attempting a single.
But Napier then arrived to dominate proceedings with muscular power that saw him smash 10 fours and three sixes, those arriving with on-drives against left-arm spinner Danny Briggs, Tomlinson and Liam Dawson.
With only 13 required, the match went into the extra half-hour and the third over of it saw Pettini seal victory with three to midwicket.
Napier's runs came from 88 deliveries while Pettini's innings spanned 100 balls and included three fours.
An absorbing third day had started with the visitors on 77 for two and holding a slender advantage of 20. They were quickly put more firmly on the back foot when paceman David Masters breached the defence of Bailey with only eight added.
Hampshire were revived by a half-century stand between Dawson and James Vince before the former fell victim to superb bat/pad catch by Ben Foakes to provide spinner Tim Phillips with his solitary success.
Vince was eventually caught behind for 67, containing seven boundaries, off Masters who went on to finish with 5-41 and match figures of 9-70. But it was medium-pace man Bopara who was the main instigator of Hampshire's rapid decline from 188 for five to 199 all out.
Those remaining wickets fell in the space of 31 balls with Bopara claiming three of them in 10 deliveries at a personal cost of two runs.
Essex claimed 21 points from their first triumph of the summer while Hampshire were left to settle for three.