Prior fifty inspires Sussex win
Sussex 174 for 5 beat Essex 157 for 9 by 17 runs
Sussex strengthened their grip at the top of the table as they beat nearest rivals Essex by 17 runs in their Friends Provident Twenty20 battle at Chelmsford.
After posting a total of 174 for 5 on the back of a superb half-century from Matt Prior, Sussex restricted their opponents to 157 for 9. Prior dominated an opening partnership with Ed Joyce to such an extent that he scored 50 out of 65 runs before he drove David Masters to extra cover where Mark Pettini took a fine catch.
Those runs came from only 27 balls and contained four sixes and four boundaries. Joyce, Murray Goodwin, Dwayne Smith and Andrew Hodd all reached the 20s to ensure Sussex set their opponents a testing target.
Left-arm spinner Tim Phillips was the pick of the bowlers, conceding 22 runs in his four overs during which he claimed the wicket of Joyce. It looked as though Prior's efforts would go unrewarded when Essex replied.
With Pettini, who was restored to the side after a loss of form lead to him being dropped a fortnight ago, finding his touch without the burden of captaincy, Essex reached the halfway stage on 82 without loss.
It was not until two overs and eight runs later that Pettini's innings came to an end after he contributed 59 from 38 deliveries with the help of five fours and three sixes. But Essex's hopes of recording a sixth successive win quickly evaporated as they lost their way.
Pettini's departure signalled a collapse that saw nine wickets go down in as many overs for 49 runs. Among them was young opener Jaik Mickleburgh who was run out for 32, but he struggled so much that he needed 42 balls to gather those runs while striking just two boundaries.
A late flourish from John Maunders, who struck two sixes in an unbeaten 25 from 16 balls, gave the Essex reply an air of respectability but never threatened to prevent Sussex getting back on the winning trail.
Their win came after two defeats and was backed up by some disciplined bowling and fine work in the field. Chad Keegan bowled with commendable accuracy while conceding just 19 in four overs, during which he gathered the wicket of Pettini, while Smith was also a model of accuracy while picking up one for 23.