Essex suffers a savage Shark attack

Brian Jeeves

Essex v Sussex Sharks – Vitality Blast South Group – Cloud County Ground, Chelmsford – Report

Essex 178 for nine (20.0 overs)

Sussex Sharks

Sussex Sharks won the toss and elected to bowl

Sussex Sharks won by eight wickets

Essex’s recent Vitality Blast South Group revival was stopped dead in its tracks as Sussex Sharks recorded a big-hitting eight-wicket triumph at the Cloud County Ground.

With Simon Harmer rested, wicketkeeper Adam Rossington took the captaincy, charged with leading Essex to a fourth successive South Group victory and a step closer to qualification for the quarter-final stages.

The stand-in skipper, coupled with Dean Elgar, put on fifty for the opening wicket. The former, caught by keeper John Simpson off Ollie Robinson in the final over of the powerplay having scored 16.

There was no let-up from the home side. Michael Pepper, whose century went some way towards sinking Middlesex at Chelmsford a fortnight previous, kept up the momentum. This time, he reached his half-century off 24 balls, before top-edging Nathan McAndrew to Jack Carson. The partnership, 64, the right-hander hitting four huge 6s.

But McAndrew was to strike again, clipping Jordan Cox’s off-stump off the very next ball. And when Paul Walter followed shortly after, stumped by Simpson after going after Carson, Sussex had taken three wickets from five balls, suggesting they were very much still in the contest.

Elgar hammered Carson over the rope to register his fifty but then became James Coles’ first victim. McAndrew with safe hands in the field as momentum slowly shifted. Indeed, when Coles snaffled Matt Critchley, Essex found themselves six down for 142 in the middle of the sixteenth over.

McAndrew and Robinson oversaw Daniel Sams and Luc Benkenstein’s departures as the hosts continued to sputter. Shane Snater fared little better. Former Essex man Mills claimed his scalp – Carson with his third catch – the run rate below nine per over. Sussex set a target of 179 after eight Essex wickets had fallen for 54 runs. McAndrew returning figures of 4-0-33-3.

Harrison Ward and Daniel Hughes set about the chase at a rate of knots, comfortably ruthlessly navigating the powerplay. Sussex reached 86 without loss by the end of the sixth over, the last of which gleaned 32 off the luckless Sams.

Ward’s fifty came off 17 balls. Hughes fell to Critchley thanks to a catch on the rope from Snater, but the opening pair had put on 99 in double-quick time. The writing was on the wall for Essex.

Ben Allison ended Ward’s flamboyant 43-minute knock via an edge to Rossington. His 68 included eight 4s and three 6s and had taken the game away from the home side in double-quick time.

Sussex eased to their fourth victory from five with 26 balls to spare. Simpson was unbeaten on 45* and Cole 18* – Simpson finished the contest by hitting last week’s hero Benkenstein for a boundary to conclude a thoroughly miserable evening for the home crowd.

Speaking to Martin Smith from the ECB Reporters Network, a stunned Elgar said: “It was a pretty disappointing performance given the way we started. I thought it was a pretty good powerplay for us and we got ourselves into a really good position with Michael Pepper going well for us. It was obviously a little bit disappointing that we dropped the ball a bit in the last ten overs.

 “The wicket did look as if it got a little bit better, not much. With the ball, I don’t think we executed a lot of good things, so I don’t think it was a very good day at the office.

 “I think the T20 mentality is to keep going but you have to adapt to the situations according to the wicket you are playing on and give yourself the best chance. Having collapses like we did tonight and last week against Glamorgan does not go in your favour and it is going to bite you in the backside. It did tonight and hopefully, we’ll learn from it.

“You have to give Sussex credit, they batted well, they bowled well also and I thought they put the final nail in the coffin in the first six overs. They outplayed us today and you’ve got to give them credit.”

Essex returns to Vitality Blast action on Thursday, June 20, when they face Hampshire Hawks at the Cloud County Ground, Chelmsford (7pm).

Essex: AM Rossington (Capt)(WK), D Elgar, MS Pepper, JM Cox, PI Walter, MJJ Critchley, DR Sams, LM Benkenstein, S Snater, BMJ Allison, AP Beard

Sussex Sharks: DP Hughes, HD Ward, JM Coles, JA Simpson (WK), FJ Hudson-Prentice, TP Alsop, DJ Lamb, NJ McAndrew, JJ Carson, OE Robinson, TS Mills (Capt)

Umpires: DJ Millns and CM Watts

Scorers: P Parkinson and GJ Irwin

Match Referee: SJ Davis

Brian Jeeves