T20: Essex Eagles look to strike against Lancashire Lightning
PUBLISHED: 17:52 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:52 03 September 2019
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Essex Eagles face Lancashire Lightning in the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast on Wednesday at the neutral setting of The Emirates Riverside, home to Durham.
The Red Rose county, who topped the North Group, have been forced to seek an alternative venue to their traditional ground at Old Trafford because of the fourth Ashes Test match that is being staged there.
The Eagles snuck into the last eight of the competition via a flourishing finale to the qualifying stages in the South Group, winning three out of the last four matches.
Now Simon Harmer's side have the opportunity to progress to Finals Day for the first time since 2013 and head coach Anthony McGrath admits that the late surge of form came at the right time.
He said: "We've done very well to qualify. At the halfway stage of our group matches, we were struggling for momentum, we'd had a couple of very good results, mixed in with some disappointing performances.
"Then we had a few games affected by the weather which at least allowed us to pick up a few points and regroup. From there on, we came back stronger, put in some excellent performances and got our rewards with a quarter-final place, although we did leave it late."
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The Eagles will have to cope from now on without fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who returned to Pakistan following Friday's win against the Spitfires.
McGrath added: "It's unfortunate because he's bowled exceptionally well for us and played a huge part in getting us through to the quarters.
"But it is what it is and it gives the opportunity for one of the other lads to come in, take his place, and take their chance like Jamie Porter has done in the past couple of matches."
McGrath was quick to heap praise on Dan Lawrence who is the Eagles leading run-scorer in the competition with 345 runs which includes four half-centuries.
McGrath added: "Dan has really blossomed this season, he's a powerful, strong guy who has been hitting the ball hard and he is full of confidence and it's great to see him doing so well.
"He's an exciting talent, he's got a big future ahead of him and he will have a key part to play for us over the years ahead.
"Hopefully, he can make another major contribution in the quarter-finals."
Essex Eagles: Simon Harmer; Aaron Beard; Ravi Bopara; Sam Cook; Cameron Delport; Ryan ten Doeschate; Dan Lawrence; Jamie Porter; Shane Snater; Paul Walter; Tom Westley; Adam Wheater; Adam Zampa.