Cook and Bopara seal Essex victory
Essex 167 for 3 beat Gloucestershire 162 for 5 by seven wickets
Openers Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara hit half centuries as Essex booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Friends Provident t20 with a seven-wicket win over Gloucestershire at Chelmsford. Cook made 73 from 53 deliveries as he outpaced Bopara, who still weighed in with 59 from 46 balls, as Essex reeled in the visitors' 162 for five with eight balls to spare.
But Cook, who struck 10 fours, needed a huge slice of luck before making an impact. After making only 3, he was dropped off successive deliveries. Wicketkeeper Jonathan Batty spilled the first diving to his left and then David Payne failed to hold on to a sharp caught and bowled.
Cook made good of his escape by going on to complete an entertaining 50 with three successive fours off spinner Aaron Redmond, and sharing in an opening partnership of 119 in a shade under 14 overs.
Bopara, whose innings included two sixes among his seven boundaries, was finally bowled by off-spinner Richard Dawson as he attempted to cut. Cook was eventually bowled by Payne before Matt Walker smashed Alex Gidman for two sixes to seal the win in emphatic style with his unbeaten 14 coming from just three deliveries.
Gloucestershire's innings was not short on consistency, with five of their batsmen getting beyond 20. But no-one was able to progress in the manner of Cook and Bopara to make substantial contributions.
Chris Dent emerged top scorer with 31 from 26 balls, three of which he despatched for six, before he was caught at long-on. Five of the six Essex bowlers used all managed to take a wicket.
The most impressive of them was Maurice Chambers, the young fast bowler's three overs costing 18 runs, while he most importantly bowled Gidman after his 30 from 18 balls had given Gloucestershire a flying start.