Styris, Ireland star in low-scoring win
Leicestershire 142 (Styris 44*, Napier 5-43) beat Essex 108 (Ireland 4-31, Thakor 3-21, Shreck 3-33) by 34 runs
Scott Styris started his tenure as Leicestershire's limited-overs captain by playing a leading role in his side's 34-run Royal London Cup victory over Essex at Chelmsford. In a low-scoring match, the veteran New Zealander, who will lead Leicestershire's one-day team for the rest of the season due to Ramnaresh Sarwan's injury, made an unbeaten 44 to underpin a modest total of 142 all out.
However, that still proved too much for a disappointing home side who were dismissed for 108 in 32.3 overs. Essex lost half their side for just 33 runs and never recovered their momentum after Anthony Ireland had produced a destructive spell of 4 for 16 in his first four overs to help guide Leicestershire home.
Earlier, Styris had helped the visitors fight back from a similarly poor position to reach what proved to be a winning total. The 39-year-old came to the crease with his side 58 for 5 but, together with Dan Redfern, steadily started to rebuild the damage with a partnership worth 63 runs in 17 overs.
Redfern then went on the sweep to Tom Westley and was pinned leg before wicket for 29 but Styris continued to play responsibly despite little or no contribution from the last four in the order, none of whom managed more than four runs. The last five wickets went down in nine overs for 21 runs leaving Styris, who spent two years with Essex in 2010 and 2011 as an overseas player for the Twenty20 competition, out of partners having faced 61 balls and striking just two boundaries in his innings.
Graham Napier took the last four wickets to fall to finish with 5 for 43, having started the decline with the first wicket of the innings when he had Niall O'Brien caught off a glove by James Foster.
Essex got off to shocking start losing four wickets with only 28 runs on the board and all to paceman Ireland who bowled superbly, exploiting a slow pitch that offered late movement. The 29-year-old found the edge of the bat to have Mark Pettini caught at slip for one in his first over before striking twice in his next.
He encouraged Westley to drive to backward point after the batsman had scored three and three balls later Greg Smith, still looking to get off the mark, was adjudged leg before wicket as he pushed forward.
That left the home side 6 for 3 and brought Jesse Ryder to the crease. The New Zealander sent his first two deliveries faced to the boundary and had added a couple more in his score of 17 to illustrate his positive approach. But he was undone with the last ball before the interval when he played a loose on-drive and was caught at mid-on to leave Essex in even deeper trouble.
On the resumption, Ravi Bopara struck the first ball to the boundary but was bowled by Charlie Shreck when facing the next delivery. The sixth-wicket alliance between Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster offered some prospect of a revival but, having taken the total to 70, Ten Doeschate was pinned in the crease by a ball from Shiv Thakor that swung late back in to the batsman.
Napier became a second victim for Thakor, trapped lbw for a duck, before the 20-year-old struck for the third time in as many overs when he had Foster well caught by Styris diving forward at mid-on. Shreck picked up David Masters without score and although Tim Phillips hung around defiantly for 27, he was finally dismissed, fittingly by Styris who rounded off an excellent day's work when holding on to a running catch at long-off to seal the win.
"It was a modest total that we had to defend and at the halfway stage of the match, we couldn't be too confident that we would win. So we needed and got early wickets and we've worked hard to get our rewards," Ireland said. "We haven't done well this year and everyone will stick their hands up to that but this will give us confidence and hopefully it will kick-start our season in 50-overs competition."
Essex coach Paul Grayson, whose side have a NatWest t20 Blast quarter-final against Birmingham at home on Saturday, said: "We were very good with the ball and in the field but we were disappointing with the bat. There was some poor thinking, a bit of kamikaze cricket up front losing three wickets for not many. Everybody is very disappointed because its a game we should have won but we've lost.''