Bopara helps Sussex beat Essex in Vitality Blast
- Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo
An unbeaten 62 by Ravi Bopara guided Sussex Sharks to a crucial six-wicket win over his former club Essex Eagles in the Vitality Blast at Hove.
The 36-year-old, who spent 17 years at Chelmsford before heading to Sussex last year, came in after skipper Luke Wright departed for a first-ball duck and supervised a successful chase of 147 with nine balls to spare.
Victory lifted Sussex into second place in the South Group and one win from their two remaining games, away to Hampshire and Kent, will be enough to secure a place in the quarter-finals. Essex will need to win both their games to have a chance of making the last eight.
Sussex were in trouble after two of their other experienced players, Travis Head and David Wiese, departed cheaply to leave them 67 for four at halfway.
But after a skittish start Delray Rawlins gave Bopara impressive support in a stand of 85 in 8.4 overs which took the game away from Essex, despite miserly bowling by spinners Simon Harmer and Aron Nijjar, who had combined figures of three for 34 from 7.3 overs.
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Bopara’s 62 came off 46 balls with eight boundaries while Rawlins produced some fireworks at the end, winning the game with a straight six off Nijjar which took him to a 29-ball fifty, with four sixes and three fours.
Earlier, Tom Westley made a half-century on his return after missing Essex’s six previous games but when he was brilliantly caught by Head running in from mid-wicket in the 16th over the Eagles nosedived, losing six wickets for 22 in 23 balls in a total of 146 for nine.
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Westley and Michael Pepper had put on 72 from 52 balls for the second wicket after Ollie Robinson had Adam Wheater (6) caught at extra cover with his first ball.
Pepper made 38 before he was beaten in the flight by 16-year-old leg spinner Archie Lenham and Westley contributed 53 off 45 balls, with a six and four boundaries, but once he went a combination of tight bowling and excellent fielding put Sussex in control.
Chris Jordan, back after recovering from a groin injury, took three for 30 and showed all his experience while Robinson, who had to self-isolate for 10 days after a team-mate tested positive for Covid-19, picked up two for 15 in his first game back.
Essex could only manage four boundaries and a six in the second half of their innings as well as Harrison Ward and Bopara also took outstanding catches in the deep to back up some accurate bowling.
Essex bowling coach Andre Nel said: "We got ourselves in a good position with the bat then lost too many wickets at the end. I think 160 would have been a competitive score and we scrapped well with the ball.
"I thought we were one wicket away from giving ourselves a chance but it wasn't to be. We are going to have to win both our remaining games and we'll just have to dust ourselves off and come back strong."