Essex prevail on slow pitch
Essex 188 for 4 beat Gloucestershire 184 for 8 by six wickets
Essex leapfrogged Gloucestershire into second place in the Clydesdale Bank 40 Group B with a six-wicket win at Bristol. The home side could muster only 184 for 8 on a slow pitch, despite an unbeaten 70 from James Franklin, as Chris Wright (3 for 43), Ryan ten Doeschate (2 for 30) and David Masters (2 for 26) maintained a tight line and length. Essex were given a good start in reply by Ravi Bopara (45) and Mark Pettini (37), before Grant Flower (45) and Matthew Walker (32) did their bit to clinch victory with an over to spare.
It was dour fare for the crowd, but a precious result for the Eagles, who now stand a chance of reaching the semi-finals as at least the best second-placed team in the three groups. The Gladiators were unable to gain much momentum, having been put in to bat, after an opening stand of 46 in eight overs between Alex Gidman (20) and Will Porterfield (27).
The only other partnership of note was between Franklin and Steve Snell (32) for the fifth wicket after a collapse to 65 for 4. Franklin came in at the fall of the first wicket when Gidman was dismissed in the eighth over and had to battle hard throughout, reaching his half-century in the 37th over, having faced 77 balls and hit only two fours. Gloucestershire could hit only eight fours and one six, lofted straight by Franklin in the final over of the innings off Tony Palladino.
Essex timed their run chase well on a night of few batting thrills. Bopara coped with the conditions better than most and was clearly aggrieved to be given out caught behind off David Payne having faced 42 balls and hit seven fours. Pettini was content to push ones and twos for the majority of his 69-ball innings, which ended when he was yorked by Gidman's first delivery of the match with the total on 92.
That was in the 23rd over and Gloucestershire still had a glimmer of hope. But Flower had sensibly taken time to gauge the pace of the wicket and Walker added some vibrancy to the innings at just the right time. The Gladiators bowlers did not enjoy much luck, particularly Steve Kirby, whose first six overs cost only 14 runs.
But the partnership of 74 between Flower and Walker proved all-important. Flower was caught behind attempting to pull Jon Lewis and Walker then fell to a slip catch, but by the fall of the fourth wicket only 15 runs were needed and Essex eased home.