T20: Essex Eagles tame Sussex Sharks
- Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo
Essex Eagles inflicted only a second defeat of this season’s Vitality Blast on Sussex Sharks on Thursday, having virtually given up all hope of qualifying for the quarter finals after just two wins in 10 outings.
The table-topping Sharks, chasing 169, got off to a stuttering start when they lost their big-hitting trio of Phil Salt, Luke Wright and Alex Carey in the opening four overs.
With the ball not coming onto the bat batting was not easy but the Sharks innings was revived by a fourth-wicket stand of 65 in just seven overs between Laurie Evans and David Wiese which ended when Evans hit a high full-toss from Walter to Harmer at mid-off for a 30-ball 35.
Sussex were without Delray Rawlins, who is on international duty with Bermuda, and it left a hole in their middle-order which Harry Finch was unable to fill; he was out for a duck.
There was always hope for the Sharks while the long-hitting Wiese was the crease and the South African reached 2,000 career runs in T20 cricket as he raced to his fifty from 26 deliveries, with eight fours and a six.
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But when Wiese was lbw to Essex captain Simon Harmer for a magnificent 36-ball 66 you could hear the groans from another sell-out home crowd, although a run-a-ball 19 from Chris Jordan briefly kept the flame alive. Mohammad Amir took four wickets for 29 runs.
The Essex innings revolved around a fifth-wicket partnership of 82 in eight overs between Dan Lawrence (59 not out) and Ravi Bopara (45).
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They came together in the 12th over and were only parted in the last, when Jordan took a magnificent tumbling catch at long-off to dismiss Bopara.
Lawrence hit both Danny Briggs and Wiese for successive sixes and there were two fours too in his 43-ball innings. Bopara's 24-ball effort gave him a strike rate of 187.50 and he saved the best to last, hitting Reece Topley over extra-cover for an effortless six in the final over.
There was another six and four fours as he and Lawrence rescued the Eagles' innings from the doldrums of 84-4 in the 12th over.
The Sussex attack was missing not only Jofra Archer - who was taking 6-45 for England against Australia at Headingley - but also the injured Tymal Mills and the departed Rashid Khan.
New signing Jason Behrendorff, the Australia World Cup bowler, made his debut for the Sharks and soon made an impact with an early catch and a run-out, but his wicketless four over stint went for 34.
Harmer said: "I wouldn't have felt happy if we had lost it after those two innings by Ravi Bopara and Dan Lawrence. I thought the total was enough.
"There were a couple of soft moments in the field but we won. Every game is a must-win game for us now. You could see what it meant to everyone.
"It was good to see the fight and desperation from the boys. We haven't been able to get much momentum in the competition but tonight was a good night."
Turning point: David Wiese getting out lbw to Simon Harmer when he was winning the match single-handed.
Shot of the match: A straight six by Dan Lawrence off Danny Briggs.
Unsung hero: Will Beer, the Sharks leggie, took two wickets and conceded just 19 runs in four overs of inventive variation to give the Sharks a chance.
Up next: Sussex Sharks play Middlesex at Uxbridge on Saturday while the Eagles face Hampshire at Southampton on Sunday.