Essex Eagles (244-7) beat Sussex Sharks (233-6) by 11 runs
Australian all-rounder Daniel Sams thrashed his maiden Vitality Blast half-century against Sussex Sharks to guide Essex Eagles to their highest-ever total in the tournament and a third win in four games.
Sams hammered 71 from just 24 deliveries, including six sixes and as many fours, as Essex racked up 244 for seven at Chelmsford after being put in to bat.
Mohammad Rizwan blazed 66 from 32 to keep the Sharks’ hopes alive before former Essex star Ravi Bopara bludgeoned a valiant 51 from 26.
But it was not enough as he perished to Sams in the final over and Sussex fell just short on 233 for six – the match aggregate of 477 setting a Blast record.
Adam Rossington got the Eagles’ innings off to a brisk start, paddling the wayward Henry Crocombe for two boundaries and dispatching his former Middlesex team-mate Steven Finn back over his head for successive sixes.
The second of those blows raised the 50 partnership with Feroze Khushi (34) inside the fifth over – only for Rossington (35) to hole out to deep square leg on the very next delivery.
Michael Pepper took up the baton with a bustling 36, finding the fence regularly and sweeping Rashid Khan for six as the Afghanistan spinner’s first over in this year’s Blast disappeared for 17.
Rashid recovered to pick up the wicket of Paul Walter, who swung at a straight one and missed – but that heralded the arrival of Sams, who immediately proceeded to savage the Sussex bowling.
The Australian’s clean hitting ensured that one of Tymal Mills’ death overs cost 29 and he and Matt Critchley (34) put together a partnership of 51 from just 18 balls, with the last four overs of the innings yielding 76.
The visitors’ chances of overhauling Essex’s enormous total largely rested on a lightning start by Rizwan – and the Pakistan star, returning to the side after international duty, did his best to oblige.
Although Luke Wright departed early, pulling Ben Allison to midwicket, Rizwan and Ali Orr (38) accumulated a stand of 87 from 31, with the latter slamming Allison for a trio of sixes in one over.
Rizwan registered five maximums of his own, including a ruthless swat off Sams that flew out of the ground and, despite pulling up in pain just short of his half-century and limping from then on, he kept Sussex up with the required rate.
Aron Nijjar claimed the prized scalp of Rizwan with his second ball, deceiving him with the flight to win a leg-before appeal – but Tom Alsop (45) and Bopara maintained the chase with a partnership of 69 from 31.
However, once Critchley had Alsop and Rashid caught on the boundary in successive balls, even Bopara’s heroics were not quite enough to prevent Sussex’s fourth straight defeat.
Essex all-rounder Daniel Sams, who top-scored with 71 from 24 balls, said: “That pitch is one of the best I’ve played on in regard to how true it was. The ground has one small side tonight so, as the scores showed, it was definitely friendly for the batters.
“The ground’s getting dry now and it’s fast – you hit a gap and it goes for four. You get half of it in the air and it goes for six.
“It was one of those innings where we threatened to go massive. We were able to kick on and we kept that positive intent going.
“It’s tough as a bowler. In a game like, that, whoever can go for 10 an over can win you the game and that’s what we had with our bowlers – some of them stood up and were able to get us over the line.”
Sussex T20 coach James Kirtley said: “It was a fantastic effort from the lads to try to chase that down. We got 90-odd in the first six, there’s no reason we couldn’t get 70 or 80 in the last six, but it was too many runs.
“We knew it was a good pitch and you could chase a big total but 12 an over is a hard ask at the best of times and it’s almost worse to get that close in a way.
“The batters showed what they can do and there were lots of good innings among that but ultimately we didn’t bowl well enough. We lost control with the ball.
“When you concede 240-odd runs, you’d expect better from that attack and they’ll be bitterly disappointed. We haven’t been able to dovetail the batting and the bowling together that much during this campaign.”
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