Essex Eagles win Vitality Blast T20 title in thriller
PUBLISHED: 22:13 21 September 2019 | UPDATED: 22:13 21 September 2019
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Skipper Simon Harmer was the hero as Essex Eagles won a last-ball thriller to clinch their first Vitality Blast T20 title at Edgbaston.
The Eagles' captain had earlier returned the best Finals Day bowling figures in history and then delivered with the bat, smashing 18 from seven balls including a boundary off Wayne Parnell from the final ball as he and Ravi Bopara sealed a stunning four-wicket triumph to end Worcestershire Rapids' hopes of defending their title.
Chasing 146, Essex's hopes appeared to be over when Dan Lawrence's dismissal in the 14th over left them needing 58 from 35 balls, a tall order on a slow pitch.
But while Bopara was there Essex had hope and he used all his experience and skill to get them back in the game.
Back-to-back boundaries off Ed Barnard were followed by a six off Moeen Ali and another maximum, this time off Pat Brown in the 17th over.
With Paul Walter (14) offering good support, Essex got the equation down to 23 from 12 balls. Walter was bowled by Brown swinging across the line but man of the match Harmer strode out and hit his first ball for four.
Wayne Parnell had 12 runs to defend in the final over, effectively 11 because Essex had lost fewer wickets and conceded six off four balls before Harmer clubbed another boundary down the ground.
That left Essex needing one to get and Harmer squeezed the ball through the off side field for another boundary. After setting off on a celebratory run followed by his delirious team-mates the first person he hugged was Bopara, whose unbeaten 36 off 22 balls had been so crucial.
Essex were only 36-1 after the power-play and when they tried to accelerate wickets fell regularly.
Adam Wheater (15), promoted up the order, missed a reverse sweep at Daryl Mitchell in the eighth over and Parnell picked up his second wicket in the 11th over when Tom Westley, who had played well for his 36, was held by Brown running in from the square leg boundary.
Ryan ten Doeschate was caught at mid-wicket in the 12th over and when Moeen had Lawrence (23) well caught by Rikki Wessels at long on Worcestershire appeared to have things under control. But with the support of Walter and Harmer, Bopara guided Essex home.
Earlier, Harmer added to his four wickets from the semi-final win over Derbyshire with another 3-16 to give him 7-35, the best bowling performance on Finals Day.
Essex's three spinners sent down 12 overs between them with Lawrence picking up two wickets in support of Harmer, who was clobbered for one six down the ground by Rikki Wessels but was otherwise outstanding in his line and length on a pitch where even Lawrence's part-time leg breaks spun excessively.
It was hard work for Worcestershire's batsmen but both Wessels and Moeen failed to go on after getting into the 30s. Ali made 32 off 26 balls before Harmer took a low return catch off a leading edge in the off-spinner's second over. When Ben Cox missed the next ball sweeping they were 61-3 and needed to rebuild.
Harmer picked up his third wicket in the 13th over when Parnell (19) was bowled trying to cut and Worcestershire's hopes of late-innings acceleration were dealt a blow in the 16th when Wessels (31) was run out by Walter's direct hit from the covers.
The Rapids scrambled 34 off the last four overs and were donated 17 extras including 11 wides, but it wasn't enough and Harmer said: "We only won two of our first 10 games - it wasn't a great start to the competition but we got ourselves over the line and into the finals and we're now going to enjoy this.
"We started to play with freedom in the group stage and Ravi Bopara has been exceptional, especially tonight against a very good Worcestershire side.
"As the tournament progressed everyone chipped in with performances. The pitch for the final took some spin and from a personal point of view today could not have gone any better.
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"I'm so proud of the players and that this club is so competitive in all formats. We won the Championship in 2017 and we've got a chance of winning it again next week against Somerset but we'll enjoy tonight first."
Essex now head to Taunton on Monday to face Somerset, hoping to complete the double by winning the County Championship for the second time in three years.