Gary Ballance struck 91 to put Yorkshire on track for a 25-run win over Essex in the Royal London Cup play-off at Chelmsford and set up a Sky Live semi-final against Hampshire.
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The Vikings’ 259-7 was underpinned by a fifth-wicket stand of 129 in 29 overs between Ballance and Jack Leaning, who struck 57.
However, Yorkshire – missing six first-teamers due to international calls – had been circumspect for much of their innings until Tim Bresnan and Matt Fisher thrashed around at a rate of 10 runs an over for the last seven to set Essex 260 to win.
On a two-paced pitch, Jamie Porter took 3-25 in nine overs of top-class bowling. Matt Coles chipped in with 2-66, while Simon Harmer kept the Yorkshire batsmen in check with 1-45.
That was nothing, though, compared to Yorkshire’s accurate attack, which bowled straight. Essex had set off needing 5.2 an over, but that had climbed to 146 required off the last 20 overs, with half the team back in the pavilion. The rate continued to rise and Essex finished 26 runs short with five balls left.
Captain Steve Patterson made sure Yorkshire head to Southampton next week with 4-36 as Essex laboured under the floodlights.
Only Adam Wheater, coming in at number six, offered any resistance. He was ninth out for 78 when he was bowled by Patterson.
The tone for Essex’s response was set when Alastair Cook attempted to slog Ben Coad out of the ground, but only succeeded in finding Patterson.
It was a far cry from when Porter and Coles had reduced Yorkshire to 5-2 in the second over and questioned the Vikings’ decision to bat. Porter had Tom Kohler-Cadmore plumb in front to his first ball faced, and Harry Brook tried to cut Coles but played on.
Adam Lyth and Ballance added 40 for the third wicket before Porter took two wickets in four balls. Lyth, on 21, upper-cut to Ashar Zaidi on the third-man boundary and Jonny Tattersall was lbw.
Ballance received a match-defining life on 43 when Neil Wagner could not accept a caught-and-bowled chance low down.
Apart from two fours in Wagner’s first over, Leaning was very much the sleeping partner. Even so, the partnership reached three figures in 23 overs.
Ballance departed shortly afterwards, swishing at Wagner and giving the catch behind. Leaning’s innings, which included five fours, eventually ground to its conclusion when he was deceived by Harmer.
Fisher pressed the accelerator when he took a dozen off an over from Coles.
Bresnan followed suit with a towering six over long leg in a seventh-wicket stand that plundered 50 in just six overs. The pair took 15 off the penultimate over from Wagner, and had put on a quickfire 71 before Bresnan threw his bat at the final ball from Coles, missed and was bowled.
Cook was quickly followed by Tom Westley, standing in as captain while Ryan ten Doeschate served the first of his two-match ban. Westley went for two, run out as Coad deflected Varun Chopra’s straight drive on the stumps at the non-striker’s end. Chopra then swept Karl Carver carelessly to Leaning just inside the boundary.
Dan Lawrence lasted 24 balls for his 15 before he was lbw to Patterson. And when Ravi Bopara tried to force the pace he only managed to clip Patterson to a diving Brook at deep midwicket.
A measure of the speed of Essex’s response was that they only moved into three figures in the 27th over, courtesy of Wheater’s ramp shot for four. He later twice deposited Bresnan for sixes and put on 34 in eight overs with Ashar Zaidi before Patterson bowled the left-hander around his legs to leave Essex dangling at 123-6.
The end was in sight when Harmer gave Carver his second wicket by dragging on. Coles wafted at Fisher, Wheater fell to Patterson and Wagner’s attempt at a ramp shot ended in him being bowled by Fisher.
Watch Worcestershire take on Kent in the first Royal London One-Day Cup semi-final from 10.55am on Sunday on Sky Sports Cricket. The winner will book a place in the final against either Hampshire or Yorkshire – a match you can watch from 10.55am on Monday.
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