August 12, 2001

Napier's all-round skill earns Essex rare win

Bottom of the table Essex pulled off a shock win against league leaders Worcestershire by 33-runs at Chelmsford with Graham Napier grabbing the headlines with a magnificent all-round performance.

The 21-year-old, whose early career has been affected by a series of injuries, announced his well being with a swashbuckling 73 from only 60 balls as the home side reached 200 in a match reduced to 40 overs per side.

The medium-pacer then took over with the ball to collect career-best figures of 6-29 to topple the Royals and inspire his side to only their second win of the season in the National League.

Nasser Hussain, returning to first team cricket, opened the batting for Essex who won the toss, but found himself playing the understudy as he and Napier added 51 runs in eight overs for the second wicket after Darren Robinson had been dismissed for a duck.

Napier scored 40 out of the first 50 with the England captain no more than an interested onlooker. Hussain had faced 24 balls and scored seven when Australian, Andy Bichel, removed his leg stump but Napier continued unperturbed, blasting 10 boundaries including four sixes before he was caught at mid-wicket.

The Essex middle-order added useful contributions before Bichel returned to wrap up the innings with a hat-trick and leave his side a challenging target of 201 for victory.

Despite losing Graeme Hick for 19, Worcestershire appeared on course at 122-2 but the loss of Anurag Singh for 61 - the first of Napier's scalps when the all-rounder clipped his middle stump - sent the innings into rapid freefall.

Napier continued his one-man show collecting wickets in each of his next five overs as the visitors folded completely losing their last six wickets for 24 runs to leave Essex celebrating their first victory against a first-class county since 3rd June.