Spitfires end campaign with defeat
Spitfires end campaign with defeat

Essex Eagles landed their seventh win in eight starts and marched through to the Royal London One-Day Cup semi-finals following a 57-run triumph on the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method over South Group wooden-spoonists Kent.

In pursuit of the visitors’ 307 for six at an asking rate that edged just beyond a run-a-ball, Kent had slumped to 50 for three after 11 overs when the rain, that had already wiped out the day’s three other group games in the south east, arrived abruptly to end proceedings and inflict a seventh defeat upon the basement hosts.

Kent opened their reply with in-form England Lions bat Daniel Bell-Drummond and former Tonbridge School prodigy Zak Crawley, who was making his first-team debut. In fast-fading light and with rain on the way Crawley, in attempting to force the pace, clipped one off his stumps from Jamie Porter only to pick out Varun Chopra at deep square leg and march off for two.

With his side already 30-odd behind on the asking rate, Kent skipper Sam Northeast smeared across the line to be bowled by Ashar Zaidi.

Zaidi struck in his next over by snaring Sean Dickson lbw on the back foot, bringing in Alex Blake, who lightened Kentish gloom with a three, quick boundaries before the rain intensified to end proceedings just before 6.30pm.

Batting first after winning the toss, the Essex top-order rock that is Alastair Cook swept to a comfortable run-a-ball 50 and, in the process, moved past the 500-run milestone at an average of almost 72 in this season’s RLODC qualification campaign.

The former England Test skipper contributed 54 to an opening stand of 95 with Varun Chopra before he lent back to cut the fifth ball of the game from left-arm spinner Imran Qayyum, only to edge into the gloves of Adam Rouse.

Chopra, in his 99th List A appearance, posted a 25th half-century in the format from 76 balls and appeared destined for three figures until he chopped on when also aiming a late cut against Qayyum to go for 83.

Callum Haggett accounted for Tom Westley (35) to a catch behind when the Essex right-hander steered an attempted run-down to third man off the bat face and straight to the keeper.

Dan Lawrence hit the first six of the day in the 40th over when he reverse-swept one from Qayyum over the ropes at backward point endangering the replacement St Lawrence lime tree.

But, in the quest for late runs, Lawrence perished with 32 to his name, driving on the up against Ivan Thomas he picked out Daniel Bell-Drummond tumbling to his right at mid-off.

After a quickfire 22, Zaidi holed out to long-on to gift Charlie Hartley a wicket, then Ravi Bopara, on 49 in his 305th List A game, sliced to backward point to give Haggett and second scalp.

Qayyum also bagged two, albeit at a cost of 79 runs after Kent – without a hope of qualification and having bid farewell to their overseas player Wayne Parnell – opted to rest six other first-choice regulars and give a first-team debut to teenage batsman Crawley and a domestic List A bow to Qayyum.

In looking forward to a home semi-final against Somerset or Nottinghamshire, Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate said: “I think we’ve played beautifully throughout the campaign with a good number of guys stepping up at crucial times to win games for us.

“Like any good team, we’ve relied on a core group of players, and Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopar and Tom Westley have stood out with the bat throughout. The bowling unit have interchanged well too, with Jamie Porter and the spinners comiing in to do fantastically for us. We’ve looked good in all compartments of our game and that’s probably why we’re going through to the semis as group winners.”

Having already collected only the south group’s wooden spoon, Kent rang the changes in giving domestic List A debuts to Zak Crawley and Imran Qayuum.

Qayuum, a 23-year-old spinner bagged two wickets including the prized scalp of Cook. “That was special,” said Qayyum:

“To get England’s greatest Test batsman with my fifth ball felt pretty good. I went for a few more runs than I wanted to thereafter, but that’s a wicket I’ll always remember.”