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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Reawakening Essex are a team on the charge

Essex 144 for 3 (Pettini 48, Westley 47) beat Sussex 140 for 9 (Jayawardene 53, Tait 3-29) by seven wickets
Scorecard

Essex have the look of a team on the charge. Half of their eight T20 Blast group fixtures have passed and, while their first five yielded three defeats, a trio of wins have come in the last eight days - a clinical, calculated disposal of Surrey, Thursday's choking of Gloucestershire, and now, the most convincing of the lot, a start-to-finish demolition by the seaside.

Sussex, as mightily disappointing as they may have been, were dispatched with 20 balls to spare with a ruthless aloofness. Those eight days have seen Essex travel seven places north, from bottom to second in the South Group.

Skipper Ryan ten Doeschate was not required to bat or bowl, yet quietly played a blinder. Conditions were curious; Hove's has been a notably worrisome square of late and this track, which was also used for Sussex's Championship defeat to Hampshire earlier in the week, looked one to set a score on.

But the weather was all funk: humid but not hot, mizzly, murky and muggy and the Dutchman elected to bowl. The sight of swing from the first ball of the match, from Reece Topley, will have left him feeling pangs of vindication, which will have steadily grown as his fine evening wore on.

As Topley and co reduced Sussex to 140 for 9 - the 20 balls Essex didn't use in hauling this down tells you how sub-par it was - ten Doeschate made no fewer than 14 bowling changes, while not calling on the services of Jesse Ryder, Tom Westley or himself.

The attack was balanced and tough to get away. No Sussex batsman, even the slipperiest of the stylists, Mahela Jayawardene, who was run out off the last ball of the innings chasing a 54th run, ever looked in.

Reece Topley and Shaun Tait provide an aggressive, pacey left-right-goodnight combination; David Masters and Graham Napier sauntered in and served up guile and experience; while Ravi Bopara, whose run-up seemed to get slower and shorter but delivery cannier and more mysterious with every ball, once more proved both unhittable and a wicket-taking threat.

The loud speaker and in-house DJ are a crucial part of the limited-overs experience these days. At Hove, dodgy tunes are as ubiquitous as the sight of a man dressed as a Shark doing silly things between innings (catching high balls this time).

This season, for the first time, however, Sussex batsmen walk to the crease to the sounds of their own, personally selected songs. There are some curious choices; openers and old-hands Luke Wright and Chris Nash proudly parade to "YMCA" and it didn't get any better with tracks from Tinie Tempah and Jason Derulo featuring among the younger members of the squad.

The performances when they reached the crease were no prettier. Nash and Wright started breezily enough, with Topley's third and sixth deliveries sent to the fence through mid-off and at backward point, and Wright welcoming Napier with a trio of fours in the match's third over.

But when both fell in the space of ten balls - Wright slashing Topley to point and Nash mistiming a pull, an innings long procession was triggered, with just Jayawardena standing firm. The Sri Lankan's timing was not right and wickets and Essex intelligence starved him of the strike - he faced just 41 of the 91 deliveries he was at the crease.

He still managed to tick along, scooping and dabbing classily behind square and once gloriously flicking Tait over fine-leg following a punch down the ground.

The dismissals were universally soft. Jayawardena must have despaired as Craig Cachopa was deceived, and bowled, by one from Bopara that may have stayed low; Machan skied Napier to mid-on; Ben Brown slapped to cover as Sussex's horrible stall was confirmed. Inevitably, the tail were no better.

Essex didn't make it look nearly as difficult to time the ball. Jesse Ryder gave some early customary timber and, when he departed, Mark Pettini - who starred on Thursday against Gloucestershire - and in-form Tom Westley refused to panic.

Pettini was fluent from the off, but Westley struggled early, showing patience and calm, before freeing the arms when in. His first two singles - of his seventh and 12th legal deliveries - were agonising scuffs clear of legside fielders and he had just two just of 14 before motoring, driving beautifully straight and through the covers. Eventually both fell, Wright taking a brilliant catch at point to dismiss Westley off Yardy, and Pettini finding extra cover off Chris Liddle.

The performance of Tymal Mills will give both sides plenty to ponder. Ryder sent his first ball over square leg and out of the ground, literally, and his third was into the stands at point. But he came back impressively, castling the Kiwi with a slower delivery with his fourth.

Plays and misses were rife as his spell went on, while impressive pace, and variations thereof, as well as the sight of him setting his own field and celebrating with aggression, were also pleasing. Frustrating, however, were the wides - six in all - and that continuing tendency to spray it around. Plenty, then, of the reasons Sussex signed him. Plenty, too, of the reasons Essex let him go.

Essex 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st20ML PettiniJD Ryder
2nd99ML PettiniT Westley
3rd8ML PettiniRS Bopara
4th17RS BoparaNLJ Browne