Essex Eagles win first T20 Blast title with thrilling victory over Worcestershire Rapids on Finals Day
Essex Eagles secured their first T20 Blast title with a thrilling final-ball victory over reigning champions Worcestershire Rapids at Edgbaston.
Simon Harmer’s side dominated Derbyshire Falcons in their semi-final before edging out Worcestershire in a memorable final to prevent the Rapids from becoming the first team to win back-to-back T20 titles in England.
Essex slipped to 82-5 in pursuit of 145-9 in this evening’s final but Ravi Bopara (36*) and Harmer (18*) fired the Eagles to a thrilling four-wicket win.
Essex stun Worcester in thrilling final
Essex captain Harmer surprisingly opted to bowl first in this evening’s final and the Rapids recovered from the loss of an early wicket to score 48 from the powerplay.
Harmer himself pegged Worcestershire back, however, taking two wickets in two balls – as he did in Essex’s semi-final win over Derbyshire earlier in the day.
The Eagles took regular wickets after dismissing the dangerous Moeen Ali, with Harmer’s three scalps in the final seeing him claim the best-ever figures on a T20 Blast Finals Day with 7-35 overall.
Despite constantly being pegged back, Worcestershire still posted 145-9, two less than they defended in this morning’s semi-final.
Essex lost just one wicket in their powerplay but Worcestershire, rotating their bowlers well, kept things tight and the Eagles soon fell behind the rate.
Opener Tom Westley scored 36 but his innings was ended by Wayne Parnell, who earlier in the day defended seven off the final over to send the Rapids into the final.
Wickets continued to tumble and, at 82-5, Essex – featuring at Finals Day for a fifth time – were staring defeat in the face.
But Bopara kept the Division One title contenders in the match before captain Harmer smashed 18 off seven balls to secure victory at a packed Edgbaston.
Rapids capsize Outlaws in thriller
Worcestershire won the clash of the last two T20 Blast Finals Day winners by beating Nottinghamshire Outlaws off the last ball in the first semi-final of the day.
Moeen hit an unbeaten century in Worcester’s quarter-final win over Sussex and appeared in a similar mood today, hitting three maximums from his first eight balls.
His cameo was abruptly ended by Matthew Carter (3-32), however, and Notts soon seized control of the innings through Harry Gurney and Samit Patel.
A fantastic run-out from Joe Clarke saw Worcester slip to 97-7 in the 15th over but Ross Whiteley smashed three sixes in his quick-fire 36 to take the holders to a competitive total of 147-7.
In reply, Notts openers Alex Hales and Chris Nash put on 51 in a productive powerplay and Hales went on to score his sixth fifty of the tournament.
The impressive Moeen (1-13) returned to dismiss Hales but Nottinghamshire still appeared to be cruising to victory, requiring just 11 to win from 12 balls with seven wickets remaining.
Pat Brown conceded just four runs in a penultimate over that saw three wickets fall, however, and Parnell held his nerve as Ben Duckett (49*) missed the final ball as Notts fell one run short.
Harmer stars as Eagles down Falcons
In the second semi-final, Essex star Harmer took four wickets as the Eagles defeated Derbyshire by 34 runs.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Essex’s Cameron Delport (55) and Westley (39) put on 78 in 8.1 overs for the opening partnership.
Derbyshire’s Alex Hughes and Luis Reece then took two wickets apiece as Essex endured a wobble during the middle overs.
But the County Championship Division One leaders rallied to post 160-5 thanks to contributions from Bopara and Adam Wheater.
Derbyshire opener Reece struck four boundaries from his first six balls and Billy Madsen also got off to a flyer but both fell in the powerplay to leave the Falcons 59-3 after six.
On a pitch beginning to offer considerable assistance to the spin bowlers, Harmer (4-19) then took two wickets in two balls as the Eagles took control of the match.
Aron Nijjar also took three wickets as Essex bowled Derbyshire out for 126 on their way to winning their first T20 Blast final.