Ok, I’ll fess up. My three wins in six games has piqued my interest in this tournament.
Next up are Essex. They are first, we are sixth, and they have also played six games. But everyone else has played seven.
There’s an opportunity for us here. We can sky rocket up the table in the, admittedly unlikely, event of turning them over in their back yard.
I want this so badly I can taste it.
Everyone is still unavailable. Except, to add to the fun, now Travis Head is also off plying his trade elsewhere.
Perfect: the middle order of Head and van Zyl together – definitely our best partnership – is broken up before we begin.
Harry Finch comes in at four and I move van Zyl up to three.
One can only hope this is enough.
They look good.
Varun Chopra, Tom Westley, Aaron Beard, Peter Siddle and Adam Wheater are all talented players I’ve been put to the sword by already this season across various formats.
You get literally zero prizes for guessing how the toss goes for us.
This might be an even worse one to lose than normal.
Olly Robinson takes the new ball to Chopra. The 33-year-old batsman plays out a comfortable maiden.
Stuart Meaker is not quite that economical but after four overs, they are still 7-0 and the big fast bowler has drawn them into several play and misses.
After 12 overs we are into the overs of our first changes, Aaron Thomason and Will Beer.
We are setting individualised field placings and they are 33-0, or going at 2.7 an over. We’ve bowled very well so far.
Westley has gone really well and is on 29 from 52 balls. Against Beer all his runs have come on the off side. We load it and force him to try and hit against his inclination.
He smacks Beer for a four penultimate ball of the over, but we get our revenge when Beer gets him lbw next ball.
Gone for 33. 52-1.
Paul Walter – who, if he’s not nicknamed Pole I want my money back – joins Mr Chopra at the crease.
George Munsey, who has bowled so well last time out and been our player of the tournament so far, is going to have to turn his arm over in this game. For all 10 overs.
He nearly has Chopra run out first ball but otherwise he’s tight and tidy. 17 overs down, 57-1.
Munsey keeps it tight before Beer strikes again. Chopra has taken 47 balls to get to his 24, but he’s not match for Big Willy Style. Gone! Leg before.
71-2, 19/50 overs bowled.
19-year-old Henry Book comes out. My interest is piqued by his batting average of 55.80. Which is definitely “handy”.
We need him early or we may be in trouble.
The good news is that both batsmen are left handers, too, allowing us to get set quicker.
Our bowling plans are working here. Beer can read Book like a… well, you know.
Another leg before decision, Book back to the shelf for 3.
At 20, Alan Norton is another example of Essex’s youth policy.
At the half way point, we have limited Essex to 93-3. It’s about as good as I’ve ever wished for in a bowling performance.
Norton looks to be wary and respectful of our spin but, when Beer finishes his overs, he takes Meaker for three fours in an over. 129-3, 31/50 bowled.
I change Meaker’s line next time he’s up to take account for Norton’s offside preference. He’s trapped on the crease next ball. Gone for 23.
Their keeper Wheater has put Sussex to the sword before and averages nearly 30 in this competition. He’s another we need shot of.
And it turns out that Munsey is not displeased with my praise.
He gets Wheater first ball of his over, leg before. Gone for 1.
130-5, 32/50 overs bowled.
Another youth, 22-year-old Rishi Patel, joins Old Pole Walter in the middle.
Meaker eventually makes the breakthrough after these two up the ante for the hosts.
Jonty Jenner makes no mistake behind the stumps and he’s gone for 64 from 68 balls.
Another 22-year-old, Aaron Beard, comes to join Patel.
The pair of youngsters try to up the run rate but, as Beard reaches 16 from 18 balls, Robinson hits, Beard misses and he’s bowled.
187-7, 41/50 overs gone.
For me, Patel has been outstanding. If Essex win this, it will be because of his 59 from 43. When Thomason snares him to a snick behind, it’s a relief but the home side are 248-8.
With the very final delivery of the session, Sam Cook is caught by Finch off Thomason.
They finish 252-9.
It’s going to be a challenge with their bowlers but it’s a dangling carrot we can reach for.
We’d be in with a better chance if we didn’t have 90% of our team unavailable.
But sometimes you gotta dance with the one who brung you.
I tell them I believe in them, because I really do.
My own youth policy, Tom Haines (22, averaging 42) joins Luke Well (29, averaging 15) to face the Cook with the new nut.
We need 5 an over. And we begin by getting it.
Wells survives an lb show which must be about to be looked at by the anti corruption unit. But I say nothing…
17-0, 5 overs down.
Haines has been on it. Any deviation from line or length has been pounced on and dispatched.
Sadly, as he reaches 29 from 38, he miscues and Jamie Porter has him leg before. 51-1
Well has bested his season’s average but not for long. Porter adds another as the veteran goes for 23.
56-2. We now need 197 at 5.2 an over.
Both Finch and van Zyl survive lbw shouts that must have been fag paper close.
However, we are falling behind the run rate. At 82-2, we now need 171 at 6.1 an over.
I have no choice but to put their aggression up. Van Zyl goes, caught first slip by Chopra off Beard’s bowling.
Munsey to the wicket. Both batsmen begin to look scratchy.
It is Finch who gets got first, however. His 14 took 38 balls and we now need 159 at 6.8 an over.
I can’t quite understand why Munsey looks like such a different player in the 50 over setting.
But at the 36/50 over point, we need 100
Runs at 7.1 an over and he’s 51 from 48.
This is going to be a squeaker.
Brown eventually goes and, with him, our realistic chances of getting across the line. Probably.
181-5, 72 at 6.6 an over.
Jenner does not help. He goes for a duck.
Predictably, this unsettles Munsey and he gets out leg before wicket, too. 73 off 63 is a great knock though.
Robinson and Thomason for the win? Unlikely.
Robinson goes for 5 to that Book bloke. Possibly because I made one too many shelf gags.
67 at 8.3.
It’s not enough. Thomason and Meaker carry their bats, but we fall short by 44 runs.
I’m gutted. We’ve thrown this away. What price having even half our first team available?
Not only do we not make a charge towards the top of the table and unsettle leaders Essex, we crunch down to seventh.