Napier blast sends Essex into final
Essex 285 for 8 (Cook 95, Napier 61) beat Yorkshire 198 (Gale 64, McGrath 53, ten Doeschate 3-30, Kaneria 3-32)
The key was superb bowling from Danish Kaneria and Ryan ten Doeschate, who took three wickets apiece, with the latter having an innings to remember as he demolished the middle order. Essex like to defend totals on their home ground - they did so successfully four times during the Twenty20 qualifiers - backing their lively fielding and the wiles of Kaneria to make up for a lack of quick bowlers. It was a game plan that worked to perfection once Graham Napier lived up to his Twenty20 heroics with a 34-ball 61 and lifted them to 285 for 8.
The pressure Essex were able to apply in the field was due to the extra runs Napier's late assault provided. At one stage some sharp Yorkshire fielding, with two direct hits from Tim Bresnan, and wily bowling from Rana Naved left the home struggling to reach 250 despite Alastair Cook's controlled 95. But Napier is the talk of Chelmsford these days.
A couple of weeks ago he re-wrote the record books with 152 off 58 balls in the Twenty20 against Sussex and here was equally belligerent. The boundary ropes were in - especially on the pavilion side - but most of Napier's six sixes sailed comfortably into the stands. He fell in the final over, picking out deep midwicket trying for another maximum, but he'd done his job and 101 runs came off the final 10 overs. The momentum was back with Essex.
Yorkshire were out of the blocks at a nippy rate as Gale and Adam Lyth added 56. David Masters broke through when Lyth missed an ugly heave across the line, although umpire Peter Hartley erred as the ball had pitched outside leg. McGrath survived a huge shout for caught behind before he scored, but soon settled into a productive stand with Gale.
Against the first four Essex bowlers run came comfortably and James Middlebrook, the first spin introduced straight after the Powerplays, was deposited into the stands. Gale's half-century came off 54 balls, then Essex began to strangle the life out of the innings. Boundaries dried up against Kaneria's biting legspin, while ten Doeschate was equally hard to get away as he maintained a wicket-to-wicket attack.
Still, though, moments before the 30-over mark Yorkshire were 140 for 1 and the common equation is to double the score from that point. The visitors still had hope, but it changed in a flash. Gale suffered a moment of madness when he defended into the leg side and tried to take a single to the bowler. It wasn't a contest, but ten Doeschate still showed calmness to maintain the presence of mind to run at the stumps, rather than hurl the ball.
Yorkshire had taken a gamble in their approach, because Gale and McGrath never got ahead of the run rate which meant a tough job if wickets began to fall. It was a telling factor. McGrath carved high to extra cover, where ten Doeschate needed four attempts before holding the catch to the relief of the vocal home support.
It was ten Doeschate with ball in hand who claimed the next three; Gerard Brophy lbw pressing forward, Adil Rashid somehow edging a low full toss (a fine catch by James Foster) and Jacques Rudolph missing a swing across the line. It was the last of that trio that showed how Yorkshire knew the game was getting away from them. The remaining wickets fell to similarly hopeless swipes.
Cook's innings was the most prosaic of the day, but then not many of his efforts linger too long in the memory. He ticked along at his natural rate, picking off loose balls when they came along, particularly from Rashid. His fifty took 85 deliveries and he appeared set for just his second one-day century for Essex (his other was for England), but fell to Bresnan's second direct hit of the innings. Richard Pyrah had parried a fierce cut down to third man and Cook was coming back for a second when he was caught well short by a bullet throw.
When one set batsman departs it's important for the other to take over, but Ravi Bopara, who never found his timing, was given out caught behind in the next over. Essex were in danger of squandering the advantage, but in hindsight it was perfect timing as it allowed Napier a chance to stretch his arms. The Essex supporters gave him a standing ovation and they'll all be hoping he has a repeat performance in store at Lord's next month.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo