Essex Eagles all-rounder Ravi Bopara steered his side to their first Vitality Blast Finals Day since 2013 as they overcame Lancashire Lightning with six wickets.
The former England player hit an unbeaten 39 from 18 balls, sharing a partnership of 60 using skipper Ryan ten Doeschate (45 from 31) to chase down the Red Rose goal using four deliveries to spare.
Lancashire opener Alex Davies had batted during his side’s 20 overs for an 80 from 55 balls into their full of 159-5 – but it was not enough for victory in their quarter-final tie.
Put into bat on a slow pitch, Lancashire found it hard to make headway when they dropped Liam Livingstone (4) from the first over, bowled moving across the line to Aaron Beard.
Bopara (2-28) accounted for Steven Croft (8) together with his very first ball and also claimed the prize wicket of Glenn Maxwell (14), leg prior to one that kept low – though the playoffs revealed it might have missed leg stump.
But, Davies and Dane Vilas regrouped, together with fast running between the wickets enabling them set the Lightning back on track and to post a partnership of 89.
Vilas, who enrolled the only six of the innings, eventually holed out for 41 off 36 balls, but Davies stayed using the paddle and ramp shots to raise Lancashire over the 150 mark.
Essex had obtained only 19 deliveries in reply, together with Tom Westley (8) giving Saqib Mahmood a return catch, until the rain subsided and forced a 25-minute delay.
Cameron Delport (44 from 30) started to quicken after the resumption, piercing the infield because he hit three boundaries off a James Faulkner around to haul Essex over the necessary run-rate.
But the Lightning hit back with two wickets in successive balls – Delport caught at long-on giving Maxwell the fee prior to Josh Bohannon’s arrow from the deep conducted out Adam Wheater (13).
Faulkner’s diving catch at long-off to discount Dan Lawrence (15) was more spectacular – yet it paved the way for ten Doeschate and Bopara to join forces for their match-winning partnership.
Lancashire gambled by entrusting the penultimate around to part bowler Livingstone and Bopara took advantage, smashing two sixes and incorporating another to secure the Eagles’ victory.
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