Essex wickets continued to tumble at Chelmsford today to help Lancashire secure a notable Yorkshire Bank 40 win by 64 runs.
The Lightning have won their last two Group B fixtures against Surrey and the table-topping Eagles to leave themselves within striking distance of the new leaders Durham after seven matches. Their eighth is against Scotland at Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Lancashire won this one with plenty to spare in the end, even though there was a time when it looked like being a different outcome with the Eagles going well at 112-2 in their pursuit of 231 after the visitors had posted 230-8.
Both camps used exactly the same phrase in the post match interviews - this was not a typical Chelmsford deck.
So, even though the Lightning lost wickets pretty regularly on a slow pitch, they were very happy with their score, which was built by in-form Simon Katich’s 60 off 60 balls and some valuable contributions beside.
Katich, who scored 57 not out in the win against Surrey at Guildford last week, also scored a hundred in the Championship win here last week
And Glen Chapple then led the way as Lancashire defended with 3-33 from eight overs. Chapple had also taken eight wickets in the Championship success.
Essex lost their last eight wickets for 54 runs today, including their last four for three runs in eight balls. And whilst it was not as significant a collapse as 20 all out, it was still a notable one which did not please the locals.
Tom Smith and Kabir Ali equally shared the last four to fall, and it was fantastic to see Smith playing his first competitive first-team match of the season following selection and then injury issues.
The all-rounder said: “It’s great to be back, but more importantly to win. That’s three out of three the lads have had on this away trip (Surrey last Sunday, Essex in the Championship and this), which is fantastic.
“With our run-rate boosted, it puts us in a great position. There’s five games left and quite a few at home, which we need to make count. Every game’s a cup final now. We have to win them all and see where we are at the end of it.
“After Friday, I’m sure it was in their minds a little bit. But they’re still very strong in one-day cricket. We knew if we got a sniff, we had to keep going at them.
“We had a pretty decent score on that pitch because it wasn’t a typical Chelmsford deck. The lads bowled really well. Even when they were going well in the middle of the innings, we managed to drag it back.”
Left-handed Katich returned a composed innings including five fours and a six. He shared the highest partnership of 42 inside six overs with Gareth Cross for the sixth wicket to advance the Lightning from 116-5 in the 27th over.
Ashwell Prince had earlier hit 31 off 40 balls at the top of the order before Cross, Ali, Chapple and Stephen Parry made useful contributions of 29, 20, 22 not out and 14 not out at better than at run-a-ball in the latter stages of the innings, including successive boundaries from Parry and Chapple to end the 39th and 40th overs.
Chapple then picked up two wickets with the new ball. He trapped Tom Westley lbw and had Mark Pettini caught at first slip by Smith. The skipper later returned to get the crucial wicket of Owais Shah, lbw for 42 to leave the score at 133-5 in the 27th over.
Shah had shared 94 with New Zealander Hamish Rutherford (63) for the third wicket before Smith and Ali then shared four wickets in eight balls to wrap up the match as the hosts slipped from 163-6 in the 34th over.
The first of those wickets, James Foster caught by Prince at cover off Smith, was a key wicket to leave Essex with too much to do. The Lightning are now fourth in Group B with seven points.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh