Essex cruised to a seven-wicket win over Sussex Sharks at Hove to make it back to back wins and boost their chances of progressing from the South Group in the NatWest T20 Blast.
Tight bowling from their all seam attack, notably by Shaun Tait and Ravi Bopara, restricted Sussex to 140 for 9 from their 20 overs and although Essex lost the big-hitting Jesse Ryder in the second over of their reply a punishing stand of 99 in 12 between Mark Pettini and Tom Westley set up a comfortable victory for the Eagles, who won with 3.2 overs to spare and now have four wins from eight games having defeated Gloucestershire at Chelmsford on Thursday.
Sussex had been indebted to their experienced overseas player Mahela Jayawardene whose 52 was the cornerstone of their total of 140 for 9 after they had been put in.
But even the Sri Lankan was becalmed at times by some excellent Essex seam bowling, notably from Bopara, who varied his pace well to take 2 for 19 and the experienced Australian Tait, who finished with 3 for 29.
Sussex made a good start and openers Luke Wright and Chris Nash put on 41 but the innings went into steady decline after Wright (20) was beaten for pace by Tait and edged behind in the fifth over.
Nash picked out mid-wicket in the seventh over off Reece Topley and Bopara collected his first wicket when Craig Cachopa was bowled by a slower delivery he was trying to pull through mid-wicket.
Wickets fell steadily thereafter. Matt Machan (10) mis-timed a drive to mid on, Ben Brown (7) was caught at cover making room to hit Tait square through the off side and Will Beer was deceived by Topley’s slower ball.
Jayawardena struck a six off Tait and five boundaries but no one was able to stay with him for any length of time at the other end. Tait collected his third wicket in the penultimate over when Mike Yardy was held at backward point and in the final over Ollie Robinson got an inside edge playing across the line before Topley’s throw from deep mid-wicket ran out Jaywardena, who faced 41 balls, off the final delivery of the innings.
Ryder set the tone for Essex’s response by hitting two sixes off former Essex team-mate Tymal Mills who responded by knocking back the New Zealander’s middle stump.
Mills bowled with real pace but it was a disappointing night for the rest of the Sussex attack as Pettini and Westley ticked off the runs on a slow pitch with few risks and the minimum of fuss.
Westley (47) was on course for his fourth half-century in this season’s competition when he was superbly caught at cover by Wright off Mike Yardy and Pettini fell in the next over for 48 to give left-armer Chris Liddle a deserved success.
But Nick Browne won the game with successive boundaries off Liddle leaving Sussex desperately needing to beat Surrey at Arundel on Sunday to get some momentum into their campaign.
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