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Cricket: Rain ruins Essex’s Vitality Blast clash at Gloucestershire

PUBLISHED: 21:05 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 21:05 20 July 2018

Ground staff pull on the rain covers during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018

Ground staff pull on the rain covers during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018

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Gloucestershire’s quest to defeat Essex Eagles and move clear at the top of the Vitality Blast South Group was frustrated by rain at Cheltenham.

Adam Wheater of Essex in batting action during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018Adam Wheater of Essex in batting action during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018

Aided and abetted by a Varun Chopra half-century, Essex reached 172-7 in 18.2 overs before the heavens opened, leaving umpires Ben Debenham and Alex Wharf no option but to take the players off.

When conditions failed to improve by 7.30pm, they decided to abandon the match, with each side taking a point.

Essex have won just one of their five games and are rooted at the wrong end of the table, while Gloucestershire have seven points from five matches.

Put into bat on a flat track, Essex engineered a position of strength courtesy of an opening stand of 50 between Chopra and Adam Wheater, the third time they had achieved that landmark in four matches.

Tom Westley of Essex in batting action during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018Tom Westley of Essex in batting action during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018

Wheater departed for 24, caught at the wicket off Kieran Noema-Barnett, but Tom Westley contributed 20 in a partnership of 58 in six overs with Chopra for the second wicket to keep the Eagles in the ascendancy.

Chopra continued to hold sway even after Westley had been bowled by Smith, raising his second Blast half-century of the season via 35 balls.

He had advanced his score to 61 from 44 deliveries, accruing six fours and a six, and Essex were well-placed at 117-2 in the 13th over, when Michael Klinger effected a startling intervention to fundamentally alter the balance of power.

Running in and picking up at short extra cover with one stump to aim at, Gloucestershire’s inspirational captain scored a brilliant direct hit to run out Chopra, who failed to make his ground after being sent back by Ryan ten Doeschate.

Varun Chopra of Essex in batting action during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018Varun Chopra of Essex in batting action during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018

Klinger’s heroics in the field prompted a mini-collapse, with the Eagles losing five wickets for the addition of 32 runs in five overs.

Ryan Higgins located ten Doeschate’s outside edge and Gareth Roderick pouched a catch behind to increase Essex’s discomfort, while Dan Lawrence, having survived a missed stumping on seven, hoisted Smith to Andrew Tye at deep cover point for 14.

A master at exerting pressure in these situations, the wily Smith then pinned Simon Harmer lbw to return impressive figures of 3-39 in four overs.

Expensive with the new ball, overseas star Tye then got in on the act, inducing Ravi Bopara to direct a firmnly-hit drive straight to Klinger at mid-off.

Ryan ten Doeschate of Essex in batting action during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018Ryan ten Doeschate of Essex in batting action during Gloucestershire vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Cricket at Cheltenham College on 20th July 2018

Neil Wagner (16 not out) and Adam Zampa (4 not out) were in the process of effecting a partial recovery when heavy rain called time on proceedings.

Essex head coach Anthony McGrath said: “I don’t think we’ve seen rain here in this country for about three months, so it’s come as a bit of a shock. It’s a shame, because I think it would have been a really good game.

“We had a good start, lost a little bit of momentum, but Neil Wagner looked as though he was going to get us up to the high 180s or even 190s. That would have been a good score on that pitch.

“We had around 100 after ten overs and then lost four or five wickets really quickly, so there’s still work to be done.”

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