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Bopara and Flower flourish for Essex

Grant Flower

Grant Flower was rewarded for a consummate unbeaten 81 with an Essex victory - followed by a standing ovation

Ravi Bopara and Grant Flower hit half-centuries as Essex comfortably beat Middlesex by seven wickets at Chelmsford to keep their hopes of reaching the Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-finals very much alive.

The pair shared a third-wicket partnership of 114 in 19 overs to pave the way for a victory which was achieved with 6.3 overs to spare after Middlesex had been restricted to 189 for seven.

Bopara profited from an early escape to make 68 from 77 balls, while Flower - playing his final game at Chelmsford - was afforded a guard of honour as he left the pitch having hit an unbeaten 81 off 76 deliveries.

Tom Scollay was the player who let Bopara off the hook, putting down a chance at deep midwicket when the batsman had made just 14.

Had he held it, England fast bowler Steven Finn would have been celebrating his third wicket, having dismissed the Essex openers in his first five overs.

He found the edge of Mark Pettini's bat to have him caught behind for 13, while he removed Test colleague Alastair Cook with the help of a fine catch by Dawid Malan on the midwicket boundary.

Bopara made Scollay pay by hammering five fours and two sixes in a fine exhibition of controlled hitting before he was caught at long-on off Toby Roland-Jones.

Flower, who leaves Essex to take up his position as Zimbabwe bowling coach at the end of the season, also batted superbly.

He reached his half-century from 58 balls, and had gathered eight fours by the time he walked off to a standing ovation.

Finn was the visitors’ most successful bowler, finishing with 2-31 from eight overs.

Neil Dexter provided what little spark there was to the Middlesex innings, striking two fours and two sixes in an unbeaten 48 off 38 balls.

Malan found it difficult to get into his stride. His innings of 38 spanned 61 deliveries, and he had not hit a boundary when he was bowled swinging wildly at seamer Chris Wright.

Scott Newman, John Simpson and Gareth Berg all flattered to deceive, each failing to press on after reaching the 20s.

While tight bowling combined with a slowish pitch did not make run-gathering easy, superb work in the field also hampered Middlesex’s progress.

Newman, Berg and Scollay were run out, while the stumps were thrown down on a couple more occasions with the batsman just scrambling home.

Paceman David Masters did not take a wicket, but proved Essex's most economical bowler, conceding only 29 runs in eight overs. Wright’s two wickets cost 38.