Phillips turns tables on Somerset
A fine all-round display from Tim Phillips led Essex to a thrilling two-wicket NatWest Pro40 victory over title contenders Somerset at Taunton.
Phillips took 5-38 with his left-arm spin to help bowl the Sabres out for a below-par 205, before hitting 41 off 35 balls as Essex recovered from 12 for three to get home with five balls to spare.
John Maunders was the other Essex hero with 78 off 97 balls, condemning Somerset to a defeat which means Sussex will win the title if they triumph in their final game against Worcestershire.
With Essex 91 for three and well behind on the Duckworth-Lewis calculations, a high wind threatened to end the game because it was rocking the temporary floodlights. But it eased sufficiently for the Eagles, who went on to clinch an unlikely win.
Phillps destroyed the Somerset middle order after they had made a confident start despite having lost the toss. But it could have been even better for Essex if they had not dropped five catches in a wretched fielding display.
Varun Chopra paid a heavy price for dropping Marcus Trescothick on nought in the covers off Graham Napier. Trescothick went on to hit 42 off 32 balls, dominating an opening stand of 68 with Craig Kieswetter, while Chopra split the webbing on a hand and was replaced by substitute fielder David Masters.
Batting never looked as easy once Kieswetter, who made 36, and Trescothick were parted. Kieswetter and Justin Langer succumbed to full-tosses, while James Hildreth was stumped for 16 off a Phillips wide.
Peter Trego and Zander de Bruyn got starts - they made 27 and 33 respectively - without going on to the major score Somerset needed as Phillips got the ball to turn on a dry pitch.
He removed Hildreth, Langer, Trego, de Bruyn and Alfonso Thomas, while Arul Suppiah was run out after Chris Wright recovered well from a misfield. Napier also impressed with ball, taking the prize wicket of Trescothick with a fine yorker from around the wicket.
Essex looked to be plunging to defeat as Alastair Cook, Napier and Mark Pettini fell inside the first five overs and the scoreboard read 12 for three.
But James Foster hit 38, sparking a recovery with left-hander Maunders courtesy of a fourth-wicket stand of 86.
When Chopra, batting despite his injury, fell cheaply to leave Essex 123 for six, Somerset appeared favourites to triumph.
But they had not counted on Phillips, who batted sensibly before he was run out by Trego from deep cover following a mix-up with Mervyn Westfield.
It was left to Chris Wright to assume the leading role, clipping Alonfo Thomas off his legs for two to wrap up victory with five balls to spare.