Brown and Croft earn Lancashire home semi-final
Lancashire 187 for 2 (Brown 87*, Croft 66*) beat Essex 186 (Newby 5-35) by eight wickets
Steven Croft and Karl Brown put on a magnificent unbroken century stand for the third wicket to lead Lancashire to an eight-wicket victory at Chelmsford, which earned the Group A winners a home semi-final.
The visitors, who had already won the group, passed their opponents' 186 all out with 21 deliveries to spare. Croft made 66 and Brown 87 as they put on 160 in 30 overs to make sure the earlier efforts of Oliver Newby with the ball were rewarded.
Newby emerged with figures of 5 for 35, his limited-overs best, before his team-mates saw Lancashire to 187 for 2. Essex had looked set for a much more formidable total as openers Tom Westley and Mark Pettini moved to 47 in the 10th over without looking in any trouble.
However, Newby snared both in his first two overs and then put the home side firmly on the back foot at 70 for 3 when he also removed Greg Smith. He later returned to shift Adam Wheater and Maurice Chambers as Essex's batsmen failed to make the most of decent starts.
Five were dismissed in the 20s, among them Owais Shah who was the victim of a brilliant piece of work in the field by Brown whose direct hit from deep extra-cover proved the highlight of fine fielding throughout the innings. Paul Horton pulled off three catches, one a superb effort to get rid of Wheater, while the athleticism of his colleagues cut off many strokes that looked destined for the boundary.
When they responded the visitors did not begin well, losing openers Stephen Moore and Ashwell Prince cheaply. But Croft and Brown regained the initiative with a dominant third-wicket partnership full of controlled aggression. James Foster juggled his attack to no avail in his attempts to make a breakthrough.
Croft and Brown scored freely against both pace and spin while putting together Lancashire's highest third-wicket stand in limited-overs cricket against Essex, beating the 114 between Clive Lloyd and Neil Fairbrother in 1986.
Brown's effort was his season's highest in all forms. It contained eight fours plus three sixes and spanned 97 balls. Croft's innings occupied 98 deliveries and he struck five fours to leave Essex reflecting on their fifth defeat of the season in the competition, while their opponents completed their sixth win in as many CB40 games.