Youngsters script Essex comeback
Essex 216 for 5 beat Northamptonshire 215 for 6 by five wickets
Michael Comber and Adam Wheater, both aged 20, were the Essex heroes as the home side beat Northamptonshire by five wickets in their Clydesdale Bank 40 clash at Southend.
They came together with Essex struggling on 100 for 5 in the 22nd over in reply to a total of 215 for 6. But both displayed a cool head on young shoulders to see their side home with nine balls to spare.
Comber, making his debut in the competition, made 52 while Wheater finished on 55. Both completed their half-centuries from 47 balls, Comber reaching his with an on-driven six against paceman David Willey. He also dealt out similar punishment to off-spinner James Middlebrook and also struck two fours.
Wheater's innings included five fours as he and Comber excelled in their running between the wickets. Their performance came after Essex had got off to a terrible start, losing Mark Pettini and Grant Flower without a run on the board. Lee Daggett was the man who plunged them into early trouble, having Pettini caught behind with his second ball and trapping Flower lbw with his next delivery.
Ravi Bopara and Matt Walker repaired the damage with a partnership of 87 that was broken when Middlebrook, playing against his former county, accepted a simple return catch. Walker made 39 before Bopara and James Foster were both dismissed immediately after the total passed 100.
Bopara fell lbw to Middlebrook for 42, having hit the previous ball for six, while Foster became a victim of spinner Tom Brett. But their removal from the scene only paved the way for Comber and Wheater to come together and steal the glory.
Earlier, Northants made steady but unspectacular progress. Opener Mal Loye needed 77 balls to make 55 before he was dismissed by Bopara. The main impetus was provided by Stephen Peters, another former Essex player, and David Sales.
Sales made 36 from 34 deliveries before he was superbly caught low down at deep square leg by Flower, while Peters was within four of his half-century when he was caught at deep long off by Bryce McGain. His 53-ball effort contained just three boundaries. During it Peters was hit on the arm and was unable to take any further part in the match as he handed over the captaincy to Sales.