Bopara continues form
With Jason Gallian leading the way, Essex Eagles returned to winning ways by hammering Middlesex Crusaders by eight wickets in their Friends Provident Trophy clash at Chelmsford.
The 37-year-old right-hander struck his second century in the competition this season to spearhead his side to their fourth victory in the competition in five outings.
Gallian made an unbeaten 111 from 126 deliveries as Essex romped past Middlesex's 259 for seven with seven overs to spare.
While sharing in two substantial partnerships, Gallian was quick to seize upon anything loose as he gathered in a harvest of 14 fours and a six.
Gallian, in his first season with the county since his move from Nottinghamshire, has so far amassed 742 runs in all competitions at an average of 57.
It is a rich vein of form that has so far brought him three hundreds and there was an inevitability about this latest one as soon as took guard. He never looked in the slightest trouble as he left the Eagles looking odds-on favourites to reach the quarter-final stages of the competition.
Varun Chopra and Ravi Bopara were the others who enjoyed themselves against a toiling Crusaders attack.
Chopra made 50 from 56 balls before he was stumped off Shaun Udal, a dismissal that ended a stand of 95 in 18 overs. He struck one six and seven fours.
Bopara should have been Udal's second victim immediately afterwards, but the off-spinner failed to hold on to a sharp return catch.
It proved a costly miss. Bopara made good his escape by smashing four sixes and eight fours in an unbeaten 85 from 72 balls while taking Essex to their target in an unbroken stand of 153 in 21 overs.
It all left Eoin Morgan wondering what he must achieve to finish on a winning side at Chelmsford in this competition.
Last year he scored exactly 100, only for his side to lose by nine wickets, and he turned in a repeat performance this time, only to again see his side well-beaten.
Morgan arrived with Middlesex deep in trouble. Ed Joyce and Billy Godleman were removed in Graham Napier's opening over without a run on the board, while Owais Shah was bowled by David Masters with the total on 15.
But Essex were kept waiting another 34 overs for their next success as Morgan and Ed Smith took charge while putting on 179.
Morgan's 111-ball effort included half a dozen sixes and five fours, while Smith, who bagged a pair on the same ground when the counties met in a championship fixture earlier this month, laced his 75 with four fours and a six in an innings spanning 116 balls.
Morgan was eventually caught behind by James Foster to provide off-spinner James Middlebrook with his solitary success, while Smith departed to a fine diving catch by Grant Flower at midwicket in the next over from Ryan ten Doeschate.
But as later events were to prove, their valiant efforts were to no avail.