An unbeaten 81 from just 53 balls from all-rounder Ravi Bopara gave Essex their first victory of the Natwest T20 Blast season, consigning Glamorgan to their maiden defeat in the process.
Chasing 145 to win on a green, pacy SWALEC wicket, the Eagles’ attempt began with a stutter when Mark Pettini was bowled by Michael Hogan – by far the pick of the Glamorgan bowlers – as early as the fifth ball of the reply. Pettini’s partner Jesse Ryder soon followed him back to the pavilion while the Powerplay was ongoing, but not before bludgeoning four boundaries in his 10-ball 20.
With two wickets gone before four overs had been bowled, Essex’s chase was in danger of petering out despite their modest target, but Bopara and Kishen Velani rebuilt with solid, if at times unspectacular, cricket, although the former despatched Graham Wagg for a six to close the eighth over with a little over a run a ball needed.
Velani soon perished, however, stumped by Mark Wallace off Dean Cosker, although his replacement Ryan ten Doeschate was far from a welcomed sight for the hosts. Ten Doeschate, one of the most experienced T20 players in the world, and Bopara took Essex close to the brink before floodlights failed at the SWALEC to halt proceedings by 30 minutes.
The irony was not lost in this scenario, with Glamorgan’s stadium sponsors an energy company, but the delay did little to deter Bopara, with the England all-rounder, now without ten Doeschate, blitzing five fours and the same amount of sixes as Essex cruised home by five wickets with 14 balls remaining.
Earlier in the evening, Essex’s disciplined start with the ball was rewarded with Graham Napier bowling Wallace for just five, with the veteran bowler making the most of a surprisingly spruced up track at Sophia Gardens.
Colin Ingram and captain Jacques Rudolph, who also turned his arm with a bowl later in the piece, rebuilt, but both were guilty of failing to capitalise on decent starts, falling for 24 and 30 respectively. The introduction of Bopara, often such a canny bowler in white ball cricket, led the downfall for Glamorgan, with five wickets falling for 17 runs to blitz out the top and middle-order. Bopara ended up with two wickets, although captain ten Doeschate was to thank on one occasion, with a superb catch to remove Will Bragg, whilst Australian quick Shaun Tait claimed three scalps.
Reece Topley, often so pivotal in the death overs, struggled with the ball on his return from injury, going for 11 runs from each of his four overs, but a decent all-round effort from the Eagles gave them their first victory at the third attempt in the South Group.