Bopara, Flower guide Essex home
Essex 193 for 3 (Flower 81*, Bopara 68, Finn 2-31) beat Middlesex 189 for 7 (Dexter 48*, Wright 2-38) by seven wickets
Ravi Bopara and Grant Flower both scored half-centuries as Essex comfortably beat Middlesex by seven wickets at Chelmsford to keep their hopes of reaching the Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-finals very much alive. The pair shared a third-wicket partnership of 114 in 19 overs to pave the way for a triumph with 6.3 overs to spare after the visitors had been restricted to 189 for 7.
Bopara profited from an early escape to make 68 from 77 balls, while Flower went on to hit an unbeaten 81 from 76 balls. Tom Scollay was the player who blundered to let Bopara off the hook, putting down a far-from-typical chance at deep midwicket when the batsman had made just 14. Had he held it, England fast bowler Steven Finn would have been celebrating his third wicket, having dismissed the Essex openers in his first five overs.
He found the edge of Mark Pettini's bat to have him caught behind for 13, while he removed Test colleague Alastair Cook with the help of a fine catch by Dawid Malan on the midwicket boundary. Bopara made Scollay pay by going on to hammer five fours and two sixes in a fine exhibition of controlled hitting before he was caught at long-on attacking Toby Roland-Jones.
Flower, who leaves the country to take up his position as Zimbabwe's batting coach at the end of the season, also batted superbly. He reached his half-century from 58 balls, and went on to gather eight fours before walking off to a standing ovation in his final home game for Essex. Finn was the visitors' most successful bowler, with 2 for 31 from his eight overs.
Neil Dexter provided what little spark there was to the Middlesex innings, hitting two fours and two sixes en route to an unbeaten 48 from 38 balls. Malan found it difficult to get into his stride. His innings of 38 spanned 61 deliveries, and he was still seeking his first boundary when he was bowled having a wide swing against paceman Chris Wright.
Scott Newman, John Simpson and Gareth Berg all flattered to deceive, each failing to post a substantial contribution after getting into the 20s. While tight bowling combined with a slowish pitch did not make run-gathering easy, superb work in the field also hampered the visitors' progress. Newman, Berg and Scollay were all run out, while the stumps were thrown down on a couple more occasions with the batsman just scrambling home.
Paceman David Masters did not take a wicket, but proved Essex's most economical bowler, conceding 29 in his eight overs. Wright picked up his two successes at a cost of 38 in his eight-over stint.