September 9, 2001

Essex brush aside Derbyshire in NUL

Essex beat Derbyshire by five wickets with nearly 14 overs to spare at Chelmsford to ensure that they would avoid the wooden spoon in the Norwich Union Second Division.

Ronnie Irani masterminded his side's success finishing unbeaten on 45 having also taken two wickets when Derbyshire batted. An undistinguished performance by the visitors left Essex chasing 165 to complete their third successive win in the competition, a task they achieved with consummate ease after Darren Robinson and Graham Napier fashioned the charge posting a first wicket partnership of 62 in eight overs.

Napier was bowled by a full-length delivery from Kevin Dean but his belligerent 47 from 24 deliveries including a six and six other boundaries had torn then heart out of the Derbyshire pace attack.

Robinson and Ashley Cowan were bowled after appearing well set and there was disappointment for the crowd when Stuart Law was caught at the wicket for nine trying to dab the ball down to third man. It had been confirmed earlier in the day that the Australian would not be re-engaged at the end of this season after six impressive seasons with the county and he received a standing ovation on both his way to and from the crease.

His departure left the home side 121-4 but Irani ensured there would be no capitulation and having hit three boundaries off an over from Tom Lungley, which saw the bowler removed from the attack, the Essex skipper blasted his replacement Nathan Dumelow for six in his first over. Fittingly, Irani finished the match when he sent the first two deliveries from new bowler Steve Selwood to the boundary.

The visitors won the toss but got off to the worst possible start losing Steve Stubbings to the first ball of the match and their wretched form continued when they slumped to 38-5 in the 14th over as Ashley Cowan and Justin Bishop ripped the innings apart.

However Selwood, with 37, added some much needed substance before an eighth wicket partnership of 61 between Graeme Welch, 26, and Lungley, 45, took the total beyond three figures to frustrate the home side attempts to wrap up the innings with embarrassing haste.

Irani finally broke the resistance when he nipped a ball back into Welch but Lungley ensured the innings lasted into the final allocated over before edging Cowan offering James Foster his third catch of then innings.