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Bopara punishes limp Steelbacks

Mark Pettini

Mark Pettini took a liking to Northants' bowlers by racing to 58 in 61 balls before falling to Stephen Peters' superb catch

Ravi Bopara hit a superb unbeaten half-century as Essex cruised to a nine-wicket Clydesdale Bank 40 victory over Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.

Young Northants opening batsman Rob Newton blasted his first fifty in senior cricket, making 66 off 78 balls, but some indifferent batting from his team-mates meant the Steelbacks could only muster 198 for nine off their 40 overs.

Bopara, who was left out of England’s squad for the first npower Test against Pakistan this morning, then smashed an unbeaten 88 from 89 balls, with former Essex captain Mark Pettini plundering 58 off 61 balls as the Eagles triumphed with 40 deliveries to spare.

The hosts won the toss and chose to bat, but they started badly when Rob White dragged a Chris Wright delivery onto his stumps in the fourth over.

The second-wicket pair of Newton and Alex Wakely made 61 between them to stabilise Northamptonshire before medium-pacer Tom Westley bowled Wakely for 29.

Newton, 20, who was playing in only his third match in the Steelbacks first XI, then reached his 50 off 60 balls.

David Sales made 23 before launching Tim Phillips to Pettini, who took the catch at mid-off.

Newton was next to go when he smashed Grant Flower’s left-arm spin to David Masters at long-off. Stephen Peters was then lbw to Flower.

The Steelbacks’ innings was starting to wilt when captain Andrew Hall was leg-before to Nottinghamshire’s loan seamer Andy Carter.

Wicketkeeper David Murphy made just four before he looped Masters to Pettini at mid-off.

Elton Chigumbura added a valuable 24 before top-edging the same bowler high into the air to his fellow Zimbabwean Flower at backward point.

David Willey was pinned lbw by Carter in the final over as Northamptonshire failed to reach 200.

Essex’s chase started well, with openers Pettini and Bopara making 50 between them inside 10 overs. Pettini reached his half-century off 49 balls, including one six over midwicket.

Pettini made it to 58 before his powerful drive was superbly caught at backward point by Peters off Chigumbura to finally break an opening stand of 99.

Bopara was slower to his fifty, off 58 balls, brought up with an enormous six over mid-on that landed in the top tier of the members’ area.

He had been joined at the crease by Flower and the veteran made an unbeaten 35 as the Eagles coasted towards victory, with Flower hitting the winning run in the 34th over.