Hampshire 157 for 4 (Razzaq 44, Ervine 21) beat Essex 156 for 7 (Pettini 55, Briggs 3-29) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Hampshire held their nerve to secure a gripping six-wicket victory and book their spot in the Friends Provident t20 final on their home ground. Michael Carberry, sprinting between the wickets, and Neil McKenzie closed out the run chase with four balls to spare after the innings had stuttered following an opening stand of 67 between Abdul Razzaq and Jimmy Adams.
After Essex stumbled with the bat against Danny Briggs, the impressive 18-year-old left-arm spinner, they gave themselves a chance with a determined effort in the middle of the innings and fancied their chances when Hampshire needed 42 from four overs. However, Dwayne Bravo had a day to forget after being flown in purely for finals day. After an opening spell that cost 21 runs he returned to use his death-bowling expertise but was dispatched for a four and six by Sean Ervine to swing the momentum back Hampshire's way.
In a fluctuating contest Bravo then struck back with a perfect yorker to remove Ervine but no sooner had Essex been given a lifeline then Chris Wright went for 12 in the 18th over before Bravo's last went for a decisive 12 with a boundary apiece for Carberry and McKenzie. Carberry then sealed the victory with a thumping straight drive as heavy lashed the ground.
But despite Bravo's poor match, Essex captain James Foster defending the short-term signing. "Unfortunately, you aren't going to perform at your best every day,'' he said. "I still think it was the right move, but obviously it didn't work out for him.
"We had Scott Styris [earlier in the season], so Bravo was a like-for-like replacement. He is a class, class act. We are in finals day and he is a proven performer at international level for the West Indies, Mumbai and Trinidad."
Razzaq and Adams, comfortably the tournament's top-scorer, guided the early stages of the chase in confident style. After Bravo's struggles Danish Kaneria was thumped for a straight six by his former Pakistan team-mate Razzaq and the chase threatened to become one-sided.
However, Essex are a gusty team and didn't give up. Razzaq was caught off a top edge as he tried to heave over the leg side then Kaneria had James Vince stumped, although James Foster didn't have his best day having earlier missed a chance to dismiss Adams for 22. Ravi Bopara eventually removed Adams and the asking rate was climbing, but Hampshire held their nerve to show why Kevin Pietersen wasn't required.
"Our policy was whoever got us through to the semi-finals plays the final,'' Dominic Cork said. "There would have been a selection dilemma if Michael Lumb was fit, but that was the only one really.
"The club, which includes myself, felt it was right that the young guys are the guys that lead us out there. I can not praise these younger guys enough - they are a breath of fresh air."
Briggs was Hampshire's star in the field and enhanced his reputation as one of the brightest spinning talents in England with 3 for 29 as Essex lost ground after Mark Pettini, who top-scored with 55, and Alastair Cook added 79 for the first wicket. Briggs struck a key blow when he had Bopara, moved down to No. 3 with Cook's inclusion, caught behind off a bottom edge then had Ryan ten Doeschate caught at long-on before ending Pettini's excellent 55 as the former captain heaved across the line.
It took Briggs to 30 scalps, one behind the tournament's top wicket-taker Alfonso Thomas, and Essex's problems were compounded when Bravo was run out at the bowler's end by a direct hit from Chris Wood at long-off.
Cook had earlier been able to cast aside some of his stresses from Test cricket and batting with increasing freedom during his 22-ball innings. There were a couple of wild mows early in the innings, but when the bowlers dropped short he twice latched on with sixes over the leg side. He fell to delivery which should also have been dispatched when he managed to find short fine-leg with a clip off his hip. How much value it will have provided as Test preparation will only be known next week.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo