Setting aside their recent four-day woes, Warwickshire completed a decisive 70 run victory over Essex in the Royal London quarter final at Edgbaston. They can now look forward to a home semi-final with Somerset at the end of the month.
Warwickshire owed their win to a fluent century from Jonathan Trott, well supported by both Tim Ambrose and Laurie Evans, and a disciplined performance from their three spinners whose combined haul was 8-108.
On a pitch (the one used for the Test match) that was true but offered slow turn, the trio of Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden and Ateeq Javid squeezed the life out of the Essex innings.
After the match, Jonathan Trott paid tribute to the captaincy of Ian Bell who managed his bowlers and his field placings skilfully. He also gave full credit to Tim Ambrose for helping him through an important stand of 136, and assessing the pitch as one where a score below 300 could be a winning total.
Josh Poysden, chosen before the game as the Deep Extra Cover Man to Watch, was clear that this was the best ten over spell of his career so far. He bowled just one bad ball, that Ryan ten Doeschate despatched for six over mid-wicket. Josh admitted that any variations had come from the fact that some balls gripped and others didn’t – he bowled sixty leg breaks with only slight changes in pace and length.
When it came to variations, off spinner Jeetan Patel was the surprise package, bowling a leg break from the front of the hand that shocked Essex skipper Ravi Bopara and caused him to miscue a catch to backward point.
At the start of the day, Ian Bell won the toss. With the prospect of a warm sunny day and in front of a good crowd, Ian Bell took the obvious option of batting.
Warwickshire needed the efforts of Jonathan Trott, Tim Ambrose and Laurie Evans to enable them to reach a competitive total because the distinguished trio of Ian Bell, Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes contributed just four between them and perished to shots of dubious pedigree, none worse than Bell’s flat-footed push at David Masters.
Trott’s hundred was a beautifully constructed innings, perfectly paced. When he fell two balls after his hundred to a typically neat stumping by James Foster, he had struck nine fours in a chanceless display that lasted 124 balls.
After taking ten balls to get off the mark, Tim Ambrose gave Trott good support. His 60 took 74 balls, and he was matching Trott shot for shot, before he unexpectedly skied Graham Napier to Ravi Bopara.
When Trott was out with almost eight overs to go, the Bears were 227-4 and 300 seemed like an achievable target. The rapid departure of Woakes and Clarke changed that.
Instead, Laurie Evans dominated the rest of the innings. Leaving behind his four-day failures this season, he had just one four but two sixes in his fifty. He then showed himself to be a super-scooper by reverse hitting Napier twice behind the wicket keeper, first for four and then for six. He followed this with an extra-cover driven four, so that Napier went for 19 in his last over. Napier’s dented figures of 3-60 failed to do full justice to his skilfully varied pace.
Ryan ten Doeschate bowled seven steady overs and took 2-45, but the rest of the Essex attack offered little threat. Even so, the half-time consensus was that 283-7 was no more than about a par score.
When Essex began their reply, Tom Westley edged his first ball from Clarke just short of slip but thereafter he and Nick Browne, looking a well organised pair, batted confidently against Clarke and Chris Woakes. Woakes had a poor game, regularly overpitching and conceding 47 runs from his seven overs.
It was Chris Wright who began to slow things down, his first two overs costing just three runs. Then came the big squeeze.
Tim Ambrose brilliantly stumped Browne off a legside wide from Ateeq, then Poysden beat the dangerous Jesse Ryder all end up and bowled him. Even so, the 100 came up inside 20 overs and Essex were well in the game. Then came that surprise ball from Patel, followed by a brilliant caught and bowled from Poysden that dismissed Jaik Mickleburgh.
When Poysden trapped Westley lbw for a valuable 61, Essex were 134-6 and in deep trouble. Despite the late efforts of ten Doeschate, there was no recovery and the game was over with almost eight overs left.
So Warwickshire’s season stays alive and they can tackle an unexpected relegation struggle in the Championship with renewed confidence. Essex, meanwhile, can console themselves with the thought that promotion back to Division One of the Championship looks to be well within their grasp.
Man of the Match: Josh Poysden
Having chosen him as the Man to Watch, I must be consistent and make Josh Poysden the Man of the Match for his decisive spell of disciplined leg spin. No one works harder at his game than Josh and his success was a fitting reward for all that effort.