Essex 147 for 3 (Rutherford 84) beat Sussex 146 for 8 (Hamilton-Brown 31, Topley 4-26) by seven wickets

Hamish Rutherford powered Essex towards the knockout stages of the Friends Life t20 with 84 from 43 balls as they eased to a seven-wicket win over Sussex at Hove.

Rutherford's competition best helped his side make light work of a target of 147, as Essex won with 17 balls to spare to move above Middlesex into second place in the South Group following their fifth victory.

Rutherford was brutal on the offside, where he hit four of his five sixes. He also struck nine fours, showing no mercy on any of the seven bowlers Sussex employed before he was stumped to give leg spinner Will Beer his second wicket in the 14th over when Essex were only 13 runs short of their target.

Rutherford and opening partner Greg Smith were more than halfway to their target after the six-over Powerplay when they were 78 without loss. Smith fell for 42 in the 12th over, smartly stumped by debutant Callum Jackson but it was a rare moment of relief for Sussex, the pre-tournament favourites who have won just one of their eight matches.

Sussex had earlier made 146 for 8 after winning the toss, a score that never looked like being enough on a good pitch with a lightning-fast outfield. Their batting was a reflection of their tournament so far, with several batsmen getting starts but none able to play the commanding innings required.

Accurate seam bowling restricted Sussex to 40 runs from the six-over Powerplay and when they tried to accelerate, their progress was checked by the regular loss of key wickets.

Dwayne Smith, who has failed to recapture the form that was instrumental when Sussex won the tournament in 2009, made 25 before he holed out to deep midwicket and David Masters struck again in the 13th over as Rory Hamilton-Brown was strangled down the leg side.

Essex's most impressive bowler was Reece Topley. Having just been hit out of the ground by Scott Styris for six off the previous ball, he switched to bowling round the wicket and had the same batsman held on the boundary off the next delivery. He later returned to take three wickets in the final over to finish with 4 for 26.

Skipper Chris Nash also looked capable of providing some acceleration at the end of the innings until he was caught off a top edged-pull to give the otherwise wayward Shaun Tait his only wicket.