Essex 164 for 1 beat Hampshire 159 for 8 by nine wickets
Ravi Bopara blasted his highest Twenty20 score as Essex Eagles blew Hampshire Royals away by nine wickets to take another step towards qualifying for the finals of the Friends Providence t20 competition. The Eagles allrounder provided England's selectors with more than a gentle reminder that he is still on the scene as he blazed 96 off 65 balls, including four sixes and 10 fours.
Bopara found able support in England Test opener Alastair Cook, who made 28, and Matt Walker, whose 33 occupied just 23 balls. Bopara fittingly struck the final blow with a huge six off former England bowler Simon Jones.
The result consolidates the Eagles in second place in the South Division but leaves Hampshire with a big task to make the finals on their own Rose Bowl patch in August.
After winning the toss and opting to bat, the Royals' innings became stuck in first gear after losing England Twenty20 opener Michael Lumb lbw to Scott Styris in the opening over. Chris Wright and Styris then struck again in quick succession to reduce Hampshire to 30 for 3 before James Adams and Sean Ervine constructed some sort of recovery with a 48-run partnership in six overs.
Adams' 31 off 28 balls included a one handed six off Danish Kaneria over long-on but the Pakistani legspinner gained revenge by having Adams stumped. In the same over he bowled Nic Pothas to finish with impressive figure of 2 for 19 off his four overs.
Ervine regularly lost partners as he tried to kick-start Hampshire into setting a competitive target but only Chris Woods reached double figures from the bottom half of the Royals card. The highlight of his 18 was a meaty a six off Styris but he could not kick on and became Wright's second victim.
Bopara and Cook put Hampshire to the sword in setting up the Eagles victory as they plundered 71 off eight overs. Cook was content to play a supporting role as Bopara made hay in the sunshine until slow left-armer Danny Briggs broke up the partnership by bowling Cook.
Bopara, ably assisted by Walker, combined power and placement as he propelled Essex to victory with some handsome driving and cutting as Hampshire's bowling wilted in the heat with the luckless Ervine conceding 38 off his three overs.