Gloucestershire’s unbeaten run on the road continued as they eased past Essex at Chelmsford to claim their first ever T20 success at the County Ground. The Bristolians dominated their hosts in every department to secure a comfortable eight-wicket success. For Essex, this latest defeat extends their winless run at home and it was yet another below-par performance in the shortest format of the game. After being inserted by Gloucestershire, their start rather summed up their day. Jesse Ryder who has been in some form of late in the 50-over cup could only inside edge an in-swinging delivery from Matt Taylor to depart for a golden duck. Tom Westley was the only Essex man to show any fluency on a track that was slow and often saw the ball stick in the wicket. The highly thought of 27-year-old struck a decent 42 before falling to a ball that kept low off the bowling of the impressive Benny Howell. Howell produced a plethora of slower balls, including a deceiving ‘knuckle ball’ which left the Essex batting attack somewhat dumbfounded at times. Indeed, the former Hampshire man bowled twelve dot balls in his four-over spell to ensure the Eagles were left well behind the eight-ball. The Essex innings lacked any real momentum as the visitors continued to take pace off the ball meaning the hosts found run scoring and boundary making hard. Most of the Essex attack fell playing closed batted shots and offered up simple catches to the infield. Only Bopara (28) and Ashar Zaidi (17) added any real contributions after Westley’s departure. Credit has to go to the Gloucestershire bowlers who read the pitch well and early and stuck to their game plan manfully. Howell and Taylor were the pick of the bowlers taking a combined 3-29 from seven overs to leave the hosts well below-par on 153/8 from their 20-overs. In reply, Gloucestershire’s ever-reliable opening pair Hamish Marshall and the brilliant Michael Klinger put Essex to the sword to lead the response. Marshall was dropped early by James Foster off the bowling of Matt Quinn, who later exerted his revenge by removing the New Zealander but by then it was all too little too late, as the damage had already been done. Klinger, so often the nemesis for Essex showed his class again hitting the Essex attack all around the park. It is becoming a familiar sight for the Eagles faithful who saw his strike a magnificent century in a losing cause in this fixture last summer. This time, the Australian struck four fixes and seven fours to top score for the visitors with 78 before Wahab Riaz finally removed the opener caught behind by Foster. But with just 22-runs needed in six overs, Gloucestershire were already effectively home and hosed by the time he had returned to the dugout. Indeed, Ian Cockbain (15 not out) and the in-form Chris Dent (10 not out) saw the job through to continue the visitors fine unbeaten run on the road. Essex, though, will reflect on a poor day at the office, they failed to pick up on the effectiveness of the slower ball on a pitch the was offering a little bit of grip and their out fielding was abysmal, to say the least, and rather fittingly the winning runs came via a misfield in the deep from Kishen Velani who had endured a difficult evening in the field. The Eagles will need to find some form and fast if they are going to progress in the competition whilst Gloucestershire will look to continue their fine start and qualify through to the quarter-finals.
The other two matches in the Blast were ruled by poor weather in Manchester and London with no ball bowled in both fixtures involving Middlesex and Sussex and Lancashire and Northampton.
Reports by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
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