Pettini and Walker script Essex victory
Essex 184 for 2 beat Lancashire 183 for 6 by eight wickets
Essex batting heroes Mark Pettini and Matthew Walker shared the Man-of- the-Match honours after a stunning second-wicket partnership worth 147 off 92 balls secured their side's eight-wicket win over Lancashire.
In a tense atmosphere in Chelmsford in front of a 6,500 sell out crowd for this last of the Friend's Provident t20 quarter finals Walker, with an unbeaten 74 from 49 balls, saw his side over the win line with five balls to spare and take Essex to finals day for the third year.
Chasing down Lancashire's impressive total of 183 for 6, Essex lost their star England allrounder Ravinder Bopara for 4 in only the third over of the reply. Attempting to run a length ball from Glen Chapple to third man he opened the face only to steer the ball to wicketkeeper Gareth Cross.
That brought Walker and Pettini, who only stood down from the Essex captaincy on June 11 and only three games into the t20 campaign. He responded with a cracking season's best innings of 81 from 56 balls as he and left-handed Walker - a t20 winner with Kent in 2007 - effectively batted Lancashire out of contention.
Though Pettini fell with 20 still required, his leg stump was barely grazed by Sajid Mahmood, Walker finally clinched it with a three to fine leg to spark Essex celebrations just after 11.15pm.
Despite a 30-minute break for rain only four overs into their innings Lancashire maintained their composure well to post an impressive total built around a top-score of 44 from Paul Horton and a lusty if unlikely 34 off 17 balls from former Mahmood.
The visitors made a horrid start having being inserted under the lights when Stephen Moore, who later dislocated his shoulder diving in the outfield, went leg before to the very first ball of the night. Pushing hesitantly in defence he played outside the lien of an in-ducker to be sent packing by umpire Nigel Llong.
Soon after the resumption Steven Croft (27) clipped to deep midwicket to be caught by Tim Phillips and give Chris Wright the first of his excellent 4 for 25 return. Tom Smith (35) and Horton upped the tempo with a third-wicket stand of 51 in six overs, Smith riding his luck while the more convincing Horton played decent cricket strokes to plunder three fours and a six.
Smith's demise to a stunning catch on the run at deep midwicket by Grant Flower led to Lancashire shock move to promote Mahmood to No 5. He responded with a clipped six off Maurice Chambers then the gangly right-hander cleared the ropes again over long-off from a low full-toss from Masters.
Essex stemmed the flow of runs temporarily when Wright snared Horton leg before then yorked Mahmood three balls later as the batsman attempted an audacious steer to third man.
Gareth Cross sacrificed his wicket in the thirst for last-gasp runs when heaving a drive to deep midwicket but Chapple's flurry of 28 from 14 balls simply left injury hit Essex with plenty to do.
Mark Pennell is the managing director of freelance reporting and public relations agency Kent & Sussex Sport