Captain marvel finds batting form at last

ESSEX captain Mark Pettini continued his remarkable return to form on Monday night with a sparkling 80 to sweep aside the Twenty20 holders Middlesex in convincing style, writes DAVE EVANS. The skipper followed up his unbeaten century in last week s County

ESSEX captain Mark Pettini continued his remarkable return to form on Monday night with a sparkling 80 to sweep aside the Twenty20 holders Middlesex in convincing style, writes DAVE EVANS.

The skipper followed up his unbeaten century in last week's County Championship clash with Kent, by hammering 80 not out from just 57 balls against the Panthers, as Essex kept alive their chances of qualifying from the group stages.

A sell-out crowd at Chelmsford saw Middlesex struggle to 148 all out with only England man Eoin Morgan and batsman Dawid Malan making any real progress.

Danish Kaneria was the pick of the bowlers as he claimed 3-21, while Grant Flower and Graham Napier chipped in with two apiece to restrict the Panthers to what looked like a below-par score.


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So it proved, as Pettini and Alastair Cook set about their task with relish. Although Cook went for a run a ball 21, and fellow England man Ravi Bopara had a rare failure, Pettini held everything together and was particularly brutal on fast bowler Steven Finn.

Matt Walker scored an unbeaten 34 from 24 balls, but it was the captain who grabbed the man of the match award as his 10 fours and a six crushed Middlesex in remorseless fashion.

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Unsurprisingly, Pettini was quick to extol the virtues of the entire team afterwards: "We showed that when we have everyone available, we are a very strong side in this form of cricket," he said.

"Obviously having Ravi back and having 'Cookie' avaliable makes a big difference to us, but all the boys were excellent.

"Although we conceded a few more runs than I would have liked at the back end of their innings, we were always happy to chase just under 150 runs to win.

"This is a competition that, at the beginning of the year, we look at and think that with our side and our squad, we should certainly be qualifying for the quarter-finals and hopefully be reaching finals day."

Pettini's return to batting form is a welcome plus for Essex who have struggled for runs all season.

At Tunbridge Wells he battled to 55 in the first innings as, helped by Napier's unbeaten 64, Essex posted an average-looking 280 all out.

But it was in the second innings where the captain really came to life. He smashed a brilliant 101 not out and with Varun Chopra helping out with 63, Essex were able to set Kent a mammoth 480 to win the match.

"It was nice for me to find a bit of my own form and contribute towards winning the match," said the skipper. "I wanted to declare in time for us to be able to have eight overs at them before tea, so I knew that if I was to get a hundred, I'd have to do it before then.

"That took a bit of pressure off rather than worrying about being in the nervous nineties."

Spinner Kaneria then stepped into the limelight to wipe away any remote chances that the home side had.

He finished with figures of 6-92 in his final championship game of the season as Kent fell 122 runs short of their target.

Essex continue their Twenty20 exploits with a trip to The Oval tomorrow to take on Surrey, while it's Lord's on Friday for the return clash against the Panthers, with a home game against Hampshire on Sunday afternoon (2.30pm) to round off the group stages.

It's back to the county championship on Tuesday when Essex entertain Glamorgan.

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