Lancashire lost their first match in seven Yorkshire Bank 40 outings today to slip out of semi-final contention. Essex batsman Ravi Bopara scored a brilliant 130 to underpin a 70-run win for the Eagles at Emirates Old Trafford in the final Group B clash.
Bopara was the main contributor to a mammoth score of 297-4, which the Lightning responded to with 227 all out inside 37 overs, including an excellent 97 off 84 balls at the top of the order from in-form Tom Smith, who hit 86 in the Championship win at Worcester at the weekend.
Left-arm spinner Tim Phillips finished with impressive figures of 5-42 from 7.3 overs as Lancashire lost their last eight wickets for 41 to slip from 186-2 in the 29th over as they desperately chased an escalating run-rate.
Bopara shared a second-wicket partnership of 159 inside 23 overs with opener Greg Smith, who hit 78, and 61 inside six for the fourth with Ryan ten Doeschate at the back end of the innings after James Foster had elected to bat. Ten Doeschate blasted 46 not out off 23 balls.
On his return to Lancashire colours after his Test debut and Ashes celebrations last night, Simon Kerrigan returned 1-45 from eight overs, the pick of the home figures.
“Essex played really well,” conceded Smith. “They batted out of their skin. Bopara’s hundred was amazing, Smith batted well at the top of the order and Ten Doeschate came in at the end and got them to a very competitive score.
“We came out, played well and built some partnerships. Unfortunately, they just got a few too many.
“We knew we had to win, that was simple. To manage the run chase, we knew that if we could get to the last 10 overs, we could chase 70 or 80 with a powerplay to come. To chase 80, 90 or 100, you’d have to play out of your skin. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get into that position.”
Lancashire openers Smith and Stephen Moore raced out of the blocks in reply knowing that it was do or die. They shared 79 inside 11 overs before Moore was caught at long-leg off left-arm seamer Reece Topley.
Smith and Paul Horton, who accumulated 45 off 53 balls, later shared 95 inside 15 overs for the third wicket to keep the hosts in the hunt, but it was all too much for them to manage as they chased a second semi-final appearance in two seasons.
Smith was bowled by Topley to leave the score at 186-3 before Horton was superbly caught by a diving Bopara in front of the sight-screen to hand Phillips the first of four wickets in three overs bowled by the spinner.
Steven Croft was undone by extra bounce and popped one up to backward point before Karl Brown and Arron Lilley holed out to long-on and long-off within the space of four balls in the 35th over, leaving the score at 215-7.
Gareth Cross was caught at cover point off Tymal Mills, and Lancashire were out of it at 220-8 in the 36th, still needing 78. Kyle Hogg was then bowled by Mills before Kerrigan was caught at backward point off Phillips to finish the match in the 37th over.
Smith added: “We were pretty much out of this competition after the first five games. Not out of it, but we certainly had to play really well (to qualify).
“We won six of the last seven in this, we’ve still got the Championship coming up, and the second XI are in a semi-final (one-day trophy against Unicorns at Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday) and their Championship final. There’s still a lot to play for at the club.”
Picture (c) Simon Pendrigh