Essex win Royal London Cup opener against Hampshire

PUBLISHED: 18:49 30 April 2017 | UPDATED: 18:49 30 April 2017

Essex all-rounder Ashar Zaidi (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Essex all-rounder Ashar Zaidi (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468

Westley and Zaidi lead way with batting heroics

Tom Westley’s hard-hitting 93 off 98 balls and Ashar Zaidi’s whirlwind 72 off 40 balls helped set up Essex’s 25-run victory against Hampshire in their first Royal London Cup match of the season.

Westley shared partnerships of 103 with Alastair Cook for the second wicket and 60 with Varun Chopra for the third as Essex threatened at one stage to run riot.

But they were pegged back mid-innings and were grateful to Zaidi’s entertaining knock, which included four sixes and proved his highest List A score for Essex, for taking their score beyond 300.

Behind the run-rate throughout, Hampshire were always in the game while James Vince (68) and George Bailey (67) were at the crease in a stand of 91 for the third wicket. But once they departed Hampshire fell further adrift and finished 26 runs short.

It hadn’t started well for Essex, put in by Hampshire, as an inswinger from Reece Topley caught Nick Browne in no man’s land and bowled him with the third ball of the match.

It proved costly as Cook and Westley went on the offensive, as the former England captain off-drove Kyle Abbott for two fours and Westley pulled Topley disdainfully through mid-wicket.

Westley hit Topley out of the attack with three fours in four balls, the second of them through mid-wicket bringing up the 50 in the ninth over.

Westley’s own half-century came up off 45 balls with eight fours before a sweep off Mason Crane took the partnership to 100 in the 18th over.

But three runs later Cook departed when he moved down the pitch, while taking a step back to leg, and completely missed one from Liam Dawson.

Cook had hit 39 from 47 balls, including a one-bounce four over deep mid-off’s head, and Chopra reverse-swept and nurdled his way to 26 before he nibbled at one from Abbot and was caught by a tumbling Lewis McManus.

Five balls later and Westley’s bludgeoning innings was over, caught magnificently at mid-wicket by Bailey off Dawson.

Ravi Bopara ruined the figures of Dawson, whose 2-40 was the only respectable return among the bowlers, when he hit him over cow corner for six.

But the all-rounder was fifth out soon after, lbw to Crane for 10, before Ryan ten Doeschate was run out, scampering a quick single off and not beating Crane’s throw.

Adam Wheater and Zaidi improvised in a partnership of 42 for the seventh wicket, Wheater’s ramp shot off Gareth Berg earning a pat on the back from the bowler, and Zaidi going down on one knee to carve Crane over mid-wicket for six.

But then Wheater played across one from Sean Ervine and lost his leg stump and it was left to Zaidi to take Essex over the 300-run mark with a spectacular exhibition of swashbuckling batting.

The little Pakistani cleared the catering tent at mid-wicket off Ervine for a second six and reached a 30-ball half-century with an unorthodox third maximum over third man. He added a fourth straight off Abbott, and also included seven fours his unbeaten 72.

Hampshire’s chase after 305 started just as Essex’s had done as Michael Carberry got an inside edge to Neil Wagner’s fifth ball and turned to see the off-bail on the ground, his second first-over dismissal in successive innings.

Hampshire had only progressed to 36 in the eighth over when Tom Alsop lost his middle stump to one that swung in late from Matt Quinn.

But Vince set about the recovery and hit Quinn and Wagner off his back-foot for trademark boundaries square on the offside.

Bailey joined the party with straight sixes over the sightscreen off Simon Harmer and ten Doeschate, before Vince’s fifty came up from 56 balls at the same time as the 50 partnership with Bailey.

The stand was eventually broken when Vince gave a return catch to Bopara, but Bailey took up the charge and duly reached his half-century from 47 balls.

Dawson gave support in a 55-run partnership before he was run out trying a single to Browne at wide mid-off and Wagner had Bailey caught behind next ball as Hampshire slipped to 182-5 with 17 overs left.

Hampshire reduced the target to 87 off 66 balls, 79 off 53 and 63 off 42, but Ervine lamped Quinn over mid-wicket for a six that brought up the 50-run stand with McManus.

Ervine, the non-striker, was caught of his ground shortly after by ten Doeschate to make it 242-6 and the Essex captain then claimed Gareth Berg to a caught-and-bowled and McManus to a catch on the long-leg boundary.

Wagner wrapped things up with two wickets in two balls, having Abbott caught at long leg and Crane bowled to finish with 4-41.

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