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Alex Winter at Chelmsford
August 2, 2014
Warwickshire 197 for 2 (Chopra 86*, Clarke 70*) beat Essex 178 for 5 (ten Doeschate 61, Rankin 3-34) by 19 runs
Highlights: Chopra and Clarke fifties put Warwickshire into Finals Day
Varun Chopra's superb form dragged Warwickshire into the knockout stage of the NatWest T20 Blast and he found his touch again to cause an upset at Chelmsford and send his side to their first Finals Day since the inaugural edition in 2003.
Since then, Warwickshire have lost in six quarter-finals but they broke their duck with a fine victory over Essex who had breezed through qualification. Chopra made his highest T20 score and Rikki Clarke almost doubled his season's T20 tally before Warwickshire prevented Essex making a successful chase for the first time this season.
Jeetan Patel has probably been the best bowler in the competition and four overs for only 23 was too great a strangle for a chase of almost 10-an-over. He was well supported by Boyd Rankin, who knocked out Tom Westley and Mark Pettini in his first over and had James Foster caught at deep midwicket in his last.
Ryan ten Doeschate has pulled irons out of T20 fires all around the world but this was too great a task for even him. Even with the chances Warwickshire gave him; both Clarke and Laurie Evans dropped straightforward catches that would have killed the chase.
Two very poor dismissals undermined Essex's pursuit. The Barmy Army used to sing "Why, why why Jesse Ryder" and Essex's fans were clearing their throats for a revival number after Ryder, having flicked two sixes over long leg, slapped a full toss to midwicket. It was the first of two full tosses that produced wickets for Recordo Gordon, who also had Ravi Bopara caught at deep square-leg. It could have been quite a different night for Gordon, playing just his sixth T20, who conceded 38 in three overs.
It was far from a textbook defence but Warwickshire earned their win in the first innings. Plenty of runs were needed to be competitive at a tight Chelmsford where over 450 runs were scored in the previous T20. Warwickshire gave themselves every chance with their highest score of the season; 134 of them added by Chopra and Clarke - Warwickshire's highest T20 partnership for any wicket.
Chopra scored nearly half his runs with a thigh injury after a collision with Reece Topley that required a runner but by then he was well set and again led his side's innings following 72 and 74 in two of Warwickshire's last three qualifying matches which were all won to steal fourth place in the North Division.
By contrast, Clarke has failed to contribute to Warwickshire's progress with only 83 runs in eight innings in qualifying. He picked his night for a return to form and played what his captain, Chopra, described as his best innings for Warwickshire with a display of both power and a gentle touch with 70 in only 37 balls.
He began by paddling and steering Graham Napier for two boundaries in the 13th over. That got him going. Another pull followed, shuffling across his stumps to hit backward of square, before slapping a flat six over wide long-on off Topley and lifting Tim Phillips into the pavilion.
Chopra's excellent recent form has also included a Royal London Cup century and he found his timing in the fifth over of the Powerplay with a crashing cover drive to a Graham Napier length ball. He added another, a better piece of timing, off Topley past extra-cover and launched Bopara over the Hayes Close End for the innings' first six.
Having gone to his fifth half-century of the competition in 37 balls, Chopra then called for a runner. That encouraged him to open his shoulders and he smeared Phillips over long-on before pulling Bopara wide of midwicket.
Bopara had stymied Warwickshire's solid start after a Powerplay which yielded 49 for 0. Two slower deliveries in four balls, out of the back of the hand, cleaned up Will Porterfield and Jonathan Webb. But having conceded only four from his first over, Bopara leaked 38 from his next three as Warwickshire accelerated perfectly.
The last eight overs brought 102 runs including 17 from the final set with consecutive sixes from Chopra, swinging David Masters over square leg and pasting a full toss over long-on. Masters' four overs conceded 40.
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