Clarke stars to keep treble hopes alive
Warwickshire 271 for 7 (Clarke 68, Trott 61, Topley 3-56) beat Essex 204 (Ryder 90, Hannon-Dalby 4-44, Clarke 3-40) by 67 runs
Warwickshire have taken their retro kit to heart. Having won a quarter-final at Chelsmford for the second time in a month the treble is still on twenty years after the legendary 1994 side achieved the feat.
Having superbly defended their totals on NatWest Blast Finals Day, they were asked to bowl second again here - as they did in the T20 quarter-final - and put in another mean display with the ball. They have now won six of their last seven matches in all competitions. They are the form team in the country.
This defence was primarily the work of the seamers who exploited conditions that offered some help far better than Essex. Having taller and certainly quicker bowlers was a major difference.
But for a long while, they could not remove Jesse Ryder. He has produced his best form of the season in the Royal London Cup, with three half-centuries in the group stage, perhaps benefitting from a slot at No. 5 and not being asked for an immediate blitz. He kept his side's chase alive by initially baulking at his stereotype, passing fifty in 63 balls. But when he cut Oliver Hannon-Dalby to point when 83 were needed in the final 10 overs, Warwickshire's task was almost complete.
Of course Ryder destructively seized upon anything loose: two cut fours off Hannon-Dalby, the first struck ferociously hard, and two straight blasts off Jonathan Trott down the ground. Later there was a slog sweep out of the ground and two sixes over long-on but his was a lone hand in a poor Essex chase.
They were blown away early on, reduced to 58 for 4. Rikki Clarke took two wickets in his opening six-over spell; Tom Westley lbw and a yorker to bowl Greg Smith for a duck. Hannon-Dalby, who handled the pressure of finals day impressively, set up Mark Pettini to edge behind. Boyd Rankin then engaged Ravi Bopara in a tussle. Bopara surrendered quickly and meekly with a wild drive outside off that he edged to first slip.
Essex only failed to make a successful chase once in five attempts from six completed matches in the group stage - 272 was well within their reach. At the interval, it appeared Warwickshire were light. Having hammered 197 in 20 overs in the T20 quarter-final a fortnight ago, it took the visitors 42.3 overs to reach the same score this time. But just enough acceleration at the back end of their innings proved more than enough for their fine bowling attack.
Clarke made 68. He has top and tailed August with best scores in two formats. Having made his highest T20 tally - a game-changing 70 not out - in the Blast quarter-final on this ground at the start of the month. This time his innings was less dramatic but it was his best effort in the Royal London Cup this year. Save one straight six off Tom Westley, it was considered batting. He and Trott put Warwickshire in a solid position with a stand of 113 in 20.3 overs.
Trott has found his grove again in the 50-over competition, with two hundreds in the group stage. Watching him calmly turning the bowling over and tucking into at times naïve bowling into his pads, gave no indication that anything had disturbed his cricket over the last year.
He refused to yield to the grip Westley applied in six overs immediately after the Powerplay that cost only 20 and lured Will Porterfield - caught at short midwicket - and Varun Chopra - loosely driving to mid-off - into terminal errors.
Trott was happy to use anything straight enough to take runs into the leg side but did play two reverse sweeps - the first a full stroke that went for four, the second a delicate paddle for two. They were the only shots lacking caution until the batting Powerplay.
There, he bunted Napier over his head before giving himself room outside off stump to carve another boundary past point that brought his fifty up in 60 balls. A third boundary completed the 37th over, flicked backward of deep square. And there was time for David Masters to be whipped through midwicket before Essex finally bowled the correct line to Trott - outside off stump - and he edged behind reaching for a square drive.
The Powerplay brought a modest 36 and as Warwickshire looked for a late burst, they lost too many wickets. Three of them went to Reece Topley, who finished the innings with six overs for 33 by primarily bowling very full, wide of off stump. Only Ateeq Javid, with 20 off 15 balls, managed to roll the innings forward at a decent pace until Pete McKay, playing in place of Tim Ambrose who injured a finger in the Blast final, slugged 20 off the final over including two sixes over cow corner.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo