Mark Pettini’s 65 proved to be enough for Essex Eagles to claim an 18-run victory, despite a second T20 ton for Gloucestershire captain Michael Klinger.
It’s been a season that has yet to start for Mark Pettini. The opener has battled injury and form with just two first team games for Essex and a total of five runs to his name so far this season. Then Gloucestershire came a-knocking.
While Pettini’s history against Gloucestershire fails to make pleasant reading – his scores against the West Country side amount to the lowest average against any opponent that he’s faced multiple times – the record books were dismissed as fluently and triumphantly as his 44-ball 68. An innings containing few sixes is often seen as a failure in the shortest format, particularly given the generous boundaries at Chelmsford, but Pettini’s illustrious strokeplay more than made up for it, with ten fours coming alongside his solitary maximum.
Essex’s T20 season had been a struggle thus far, with one win from four before victory over Surrey last time out, but Pettini’s entrance has perhaps given a semblance of balance to a side bursting with international recognition and overseas experience. A 16th T20 half-century barely looked in doubt from the moment Jack Taylor was battered for 25 in his first over, with the array of drives and sweeps looking more like a highlights package than a single over.
Pettini’s eventual dismissal – stumped off Kieran Noema-Barnett’s first ball – proved the start of a collapse for an Essex side frail at best so far in a season where they have failed to hit their straps. Departing at the start of the 13th over, 200 had seemed possible, but a flurry of wickets halted the momentum Pettini and Jesse Ryder had built up from the outset.
Tom Smith, as he did in the corresponding fixture, was the main instigator of the damage, finishing with three for 26 as Tom Westley, Ravi Bopara and Nick Browne all fell soon after Pettini. Combined figures of 8-0-65-8 against the Eagles over two games amounts to a job very well done for Smith.
Big hits from Ryan ten Doeschate, James Foster and Graham Napier threatened to give Essex their 200 target, but four wickets from the last seven balls – two of those to James Fuller as a deserved reward for an economical spell – led the Eagles to 181 all out.
On a pitch looking primed for a big target, Gloucestershire will have fancied themselves to chase down the effort, but frequent wickets proved a hindrance as Klinger was devoid of a partner for any reasonable time. Fuller (26*) and Noema-Barnett (10) were the only other players to make double figures.
Essex’s bowlers have been guilty of leaking runs lately, but a more disciplined performance reaped its rewards, with Napier in particular impressive with 3/30. Klinger, however, proved to be an elusive scalp, maintaining his record of remaining not out in all three of his T20 Blast games this season.
It was yet another monstrous display from the Australian, with ten fours and three sixes in a 104-run innings lasting 64 balls, adding to the century he made against the same opponents at Bristol back in May. Napier, who took two wickets in two balls when Benny Howell and Jack Taylor fell, with Westley and David Masters doing the damage at the top of the innings while Shaun Tait continued to bowl fast and furiously.
This result is far from a season-changer for Essex, with frailties remaining in their batting unit, while the bowling has to find a level of consistency as well as more options should things go wrong. For the visitors, meanwhile, they sit in a decent position still in the South Division, with two more games before the weekend is out as they look to return to the top of the group.