All-round Napier helps Essex to close win
Essex 139 for 9 beat Middlesex 131 for 8 by eight runs
Middlesex remained rooted to the foot of the Friends Life t20 South table after suffering an eight-run defeat against Essex in Chelmsford.
Although only faced with a modest total of 139 for nine, the visitors finished on 131 for eight - and that included a bonus of six runs when Essex were penalised for not completing their overs in the permitted time. It was Middlesex's 10th defeat in a dozen outings.
Ryan McLaren was the only visiting player to score over 20. He struck an unbeaten 35 from 30 deliveries, but not before he received three lives. He survived a sharp caught and bowled chance to Ryan ten Doeschate, before he was put down twice in an over by David Masters on the fine-leg boundary - both off the bowling of Graham Napier.
Napier, ten Doeschate and Tim Southee were the most successful Essex bowlers with two wickets each. The home side's total owed much to the efforts of Napier and ten Doeschate. Essex reached the end of the 15th over in disarray at 76 for 7, but were boosted by 63 in the final five.
That surge was spearheaded by Napier, who struck three sixes in an over against spinner Tom Smith before falling leg before wicket to McLaren for 23 in the next over. Ten Doeschate went on to make 28 from 20 balls before paceman Steven Crook had him caught in the deep.
In contrast, Ravi Bopara again struggled to find his touch. He needed 10 deliveries to get off the mark and his innings of 14 spanned 28 balls and included just one boundary. He was finally put out of his misery when Smith had him caught behind.
Smith, Crook and McLaren each picked up a couple of wickets while Crook also ran out Owais Shah, playing against his former county, for a duck with a direct throw from short fine leg.
The scarcity of runs would suggest that the bowling was of the highest quality and the pitch contained demons. But nearer the truth was the fact that batsmen on both sides were the architects of their own downfall, with a series of unsightly strokes on a good pitch.
Essex's success, coming after their eight-wicket thrashing at the hands of Kent 24 hours earlier, keep alive their slender hopes of making the latter stages of the competition. But they will need to play much better in their next two games against pace-setters Somerset and Hampshire.