T20: Wonder Westley sets up Essex success

Tom Westley of Essex in batting action (pic Nick Wood/TGS Photo)

Tom Westley of Essex in batting action (pic Nick Wood/TGS Photo) - Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo

Tom Westley scored a brilliant unbeaten half-century as Essex defeated Gloucestershire by 25 runs at the Bristol County Ground to put their Vitality T20 Blast campaign back on track.

He top-scored with 86 not out and shared in stands of 81 and 105 with Cameron Delport and Dan Lawrence for the first and third wickets respectively as Essex made 206-3, their highest score in matches against Gloucestershire, eclipsing the 204-4 they made in a winning cause at Chelmsford in 2011.

Delport and Lawrence also contributed half centuries to propel the visitors to an imposing score on a used pitch and Gloucestershire, undone by the loss of early wickets, left themselves with too much to do.

Their top-order shortcomings rendered a frenetic fifth-wicket stand of 93 in 42 balls between Jack Taylor and Ryan Higgins inconsequential as they came up short at 181-5.

The decision to restore Westley to the top of the order following a spell at number three paid dividends for Essex as their opening pair staged a boundary-laden stand of 81 inside nine overs.

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Hard-hitting South African Delport adopted the aerial route and took the eye initially, clubbing five sixes and two fours in harvesting 51 from 31 balls.

Dropped at mid-off by Andrew Tye off the bowling of David Payne when on 23, Delport made good his escape as the visitors posted their highest opening partnership of the campaign.

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Thereafter, Westley took centre stage, striking the ball cleanly, finding the gaps with the aid of adept placement and running furiously between the wickets in raising a 36-ball half century.

Aided and abetted by Lawrence, who proved adept at rotating the strike, Westley launched a violent assault on Tom Smith's slow left arm spin as the 14th over yielded 24 runs.

But he was denied what would have been a third T20 hundred by Lawrence, who dominated the strike in smashing a 27-ball 50.

Promoted up the order for this match, Lawrence raised that landmark in the grand manner, hoisting Tye over long-on for six, one of three maximums in a high-octane innings. The third wicket realised 105 runs from 52 balls and effectively carried the game out of Gloucestershire's reach.

Having set his stall out to carry his bat, Westley finished on 86 not out from 54 balls, having accrued seven fours and three sixes.

Under pressure to start fast, Gloucestershire lost Miles Hammond and the talismanic Michael Klinger inside five overs.

And when James Bracey holed out to long-on two overs later, the hosts were 43-3 and up against it.

Making his T20 debut, Aaron Beard then accounted for Ian Cockbain, held at mid-off, as Gloucestershire's top order crumbled under duress.

Required to chase down 139 runs from 55 deliveries, Higgins and Taylor traded almost exclusively in boundaries to at least give home supporters something to cheer.

Higgins raised a 28-ball 50 with a huge maximum over square leg, but when Taylor holed out in the deep for 42 in the 18th over with 46 stil needed, the game was all but up.

Higgins finished on 77 not out from 43 balls, with three sixes and six fours.

Turning Point: Andrew Tye fumbled a simple catch at mid-off to allow Essex opener Cameron Delport a life on 23 in the fifth over. The South African made Gloucestershire pay heavily, providing the platform for a record total.

Shot of the day: A man in a hurry during the final overs, Dan Lawrence brought up his 50 in fine style, smashing Australian international Andrew Tye back over his head for a towering six.

Unsung Hero: Gloucestershire all-rounder Benny Howell again proved his worth with the white ball, applying the brakes in the middle overs and returning figures of 2-13 from four overs.

Up next: Without a win in any of their previous three outings, Gloucestershire know that only victory over Sussex at the Bristol County Ground on Sunday will do if they are to keep pace with the South Group pace-setters. Essex host Somerset at Chelmsford next Wednesday.

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