Leicestershire 173 for 4 (Ackerman 64, Nixon 57*) beat Essex 150 for 9 (Pettini 57, Snape 4-22) by 23 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
An outstanding spell of bowling from Jeremy Snape, allied with a medley of reckless strokes from Essex's impatient batsmen, handed Leicestershire a place in the final on the climax of the Twenty20 season at Trent Bridge.
The precedent to Leicestershire's successful defence of 173, which was compiled largely thanks to Paul Nixon's unbeaten 57, came from Stuart Broad. The 20-year-old, so highly thought of as a future England bowler, bowled a tight off-stump line and caused Essex's openers no end of difficulty. Gaining sharp bounce - more than any other bowler from either side - his four overs cost just 22.
Ronnie Irani, the Essex captain, was particularly unsettled by the lift Broad produced, not to mention the pace, and soon flirted outside his off stump to hand Nixon his first catch. Pettini was troubled by Broad's pace and accuracy, too, before launching his innings with a flurry of boundaries - twice lofting the bowlers gloriously over cover, and cutting Adam Griffith behind point with power.
Darren Gough, promoted as a pinch-hitter to No. 4, threatened to celebrate his England call-up with by harking back to his initial international career when he was once mooted as a potential allrounder. However, one biffing strike through midwicket aside, the experiment was a failure, as was Essex's innings all round. Alastair Cook, picked ahead of Andy Flower, wasn't at the top of his game as he made 9 off 16 balls.
"I knew we had to come out hard," Broad said after the match, "and I looked to hit the deck hard. We are a very confident team, we knew 173 was a decent score and our spinners were great."
As Broad pointed out it was spin - from Jeremy Snape and Claude Henderson - which turned the game Leicestershire's way, cutting a hole in Essex's middle-order who stumbled disastrously from 81 for 1. Snape, so adept at teasing batsmen out with his ultra-slow cloud-catchers, lured Ravinder Bopara into a criminal and fatal midwicket pull which landed in the very safe hands of Jim Allenby in the deep. As Bopara sacrificed his wicket, so did the rest as Essex folded like a damp pack of cards.
Earlier, Nixon, the wicketkeeper, batted with tremendous vigour and adaptability, reverse-sweeping the fast bowlers and spinners with great power. He and HD Ackerman, who made a cultured (if not altogether rollicking) 64 from 49 balls, put on a vital 77 for the third wicket. As Essex ran out of time and overs, Nixon, the cheerleader, was first to jump up and celebrate as Leicestershire eased home, and into the final, by 23 runs.