Report: Bears v Essex, Vitality Blast
Bears hopes of reaching their first Vitality Blast Finals Day in six years were ended by Essex who won by two wickets in a thrilling quarter-final at Edgbaston.
Mark Robinson’s men charged through the group stage with 11 wins out of 14 but cruelly bowed out at the quarter-final stage for the third successive year.
Disciplined Essex bowling, backed up by excellent fielding, restricted the Bears to 167 for six. Sam Hain struck a typically polished 52 (36 balls) but, tied down by Harmer (4-0-20-1) and Sam Cook (4-0-24-2), the home side needed some late flailing from Chris Benjamin and Dominic Drakes to at least approach par.
Essex then reached 171 for eight with two balls to spare. Dan Lawrence underpinned the chase with a high-class 62 (41 balls) and Paul Walter’s violent 15-ball 27 retained his side’s control at a vital time mid-innings. The Bears fought hard in the closing overs and Essex needed still three from the last two balls before Shane Snater hit the first of them for six.
Essex chose to field and started brilliantly as Daniel Sams delivered a wicket maiden. Rob Yates skied the third ball of the innings to third man and it was not until the eighth that the Bears opened their account with a top-edged two. Five for one from 14 balls was not the start a brilliant 10,812 crowd had hoped.
Glenn Maxwell pulled the 15th ball for six but Alex Davies fell in the next over, adjudged, after an interminable review, to have gloved a pull at Aaron Beard.
Maxwell added five fours to his six in a punchy 32 but then pulled Paul Walter to deep mid-wicket where Sams took a calm catch and celebrated with a fist-pump to the raucous Hollies Stand. When, 17 balls later, the Aussie accepted another catch to oust Dan Mousley, this time he turned and shushed the Hollies.
Harmer increased the pressure by conceding just three in his first over and bowling Jake Bethell in his second. Hain posted his 25th T20 half-century, from 33 balls, but then sliced Cook to shirt third man.
With Hain went the Bears’ hopes of a really imposing total and it was left to Benjamin (24, 21) and Drakes (21 not out, 13) to eke 34 from the last 21 balls to heave the total over 150.
The Bears needed to strike early but Adam Rossington clouted 21 from 11 balls to make immediate inroads into the target. Rossington was run out by smart work from Davies but Essex thundered to 77 for one from 41 balls before a wobble arrived with two wickets in three balls, Michael Pepper slicing to short third man and Feroze Khushi socking a Jake Lintott full toss to deep mid-wicket.
Successive sixes by Walter off Maxwell reasserted the visitors’ control and Lawrence continued to work the ball round with consummate skill before his departure set up a tense finish.
With seven needed from two overs, Lawrence lifted the next ball, from Drakes, to mid on. A superb over from the West Indian cost just a single and saw Harmer run out from the last ball, leaving six still to find from the last over, bowled by Olly Hannon-Dalby.
That came down to three from the last two balls, the first of which Snater socked for a straight six to end Essex’s quarter-final hoodoo against the Bears who won both their previous meetings in the last eight.
First Team Coach Mark Robinson said: “It is very disappointing and a hard one to take but we were probably second best for most of the game and we have to accept that.
“We fought hard and kept taking wickets when we needed it and stayed in the contest and there was a wonderful running catch from Ethan Brookes and then suddenly we were right back in it.
“It was still a tall ask in the last couple of overs and we are talking such small margins, that ball just going over Barny’s head at mid-wicket so they got a single or it would have been a dot ball with the number 11 still on strike, but fair play to Essex, they probably deserved to win.
“We played some really good T20 cricket through the group in a knockout game what you’ve done before can count for nothing. It wasn’t the easiest of wickets and not a straightforward surface to bat on but we’d have liked a few more runs.”