Gloucestershire youngsters shine in victory
Gloucestershire 196 for 6 beat Essex 195 by four wickets
Essex saw their hopes of taking over as Clydesdale Bank 40 Group C leaders disappear with a dismal batting collapse in a four-wicket defeat by Gloucestershire at Cheltenham.
The visitors plummeted to 52 for 7 on a good batting pitch after winning the toss and it took 34 from Graham Napier and a last wicket stand of 80 between Tim Phillips (58 not out) and Chris Wright (42) to see them to 195 all out. James Fuller returned 4 for 33.
That recovery was not enough, though, as the Gladiators put the conditions in perspective by reaching 196 for 6 with five overs to spare, Ian Cockbain (48no) and Kevin O'Brien (41) sharing a stand of 97 for the fifth wicket.
It was the Eagles' first defeat in the competition this season and ensured they stayed below group leaders Somerset, who now have two games in hand. For Gloucestershire it was only their third win and they appear to have no chance of reaching the semi-finals.
Four of the Essex wickets fell to players still at school as two 17-year-olds, Matthew Taylor (2 for 46) and Craig Miles (2 for 32) both bowled impressively for a young home pace contingent. Taylor, a left-arm seamer yet to make his first-class debut, disposed of opener Mark Pettini for a duck and Wright, while Miles, a tall right-armer with a high action, sent back Ravi Bopara and Jaik Mickleburgh.
Fuller, himself only 21, claimed the key wickets of Owais Shah and Ryan ten Doeschate, as well as those of Tom Westley and opener Adam Wheater, who was injured when colliding with the bowler as he skied a catch to O'Brien.
Wheater was due to keep wicket in the absence of Essex skipper James Foster with a twisted ankle, but was still dazed when his side took the field, forcing Pettini to don the gloves. Captain Alex Gidman and Chris Dent gave Gloucestershire a positive start to their reply with a stand of 48 in seven overs before Gidman was caught at point off Wright for 26.
Bopara produced a good spell to keep Essex in the game, dismissing Kane Williamson and Chris Taylor , and at 84 for 4 the game was in the balance.
But Cockbain and O'Brien looked increasingly confident as they tilted the game back Gloucestershire's way. And by the time O'Brien, who faced just 48 balls, miscued to mid-on to give Bopara a third wicket, only 15 runs were needed.
Cockbain's 61-ball innings included only four boundaries, but was perfectly paced and crucial to his side. Ed Young finished the game with a six off a free hit after Napier had over-stepped for a no-ball.