Essex ease to victory against Unicorns

ESSEX produced a thoroughly professional performance to crush the Unicorns at sun-kissed Bury St Edmunds yesterday.

A crowd of more than 1,000 were present at the Victory Ground to witness Essex win by eight wickets with 5.5 overs to spare.

The first-class county stamped their authority on the match straight from the outset and never let their opponents have a sniff of causing an upset. The Unicorns, whose side is drawn from players without a contract at a first-class county, chose to bat upon winning the toss much to the disappointment of those spectators who had arrived wishing to see Essex bat first.

They struggled to 137 all out 37.5 overs – 13 deliveries shy of their full allocation – as Tim Phillips returned competition-best figures of five for 28.

Essex then moved serenely towards their target, Mark Pettini and Alastair Cook, playing his first innings since being named as England’s one-day captain, posting a fifty partnership inside 11 overs.

The reintroduction of opening bowler Neil Saker for the 13th over proved unlucky for Cook, who played on to his first ball for a well-compiled 38. Graham Napier’s brief innings promised to brighten proceedings, including striking the only six of the day over long off, before he drove straight to cover in the 17th over.

However, there were no further concerns for the first-class county, Pettini and Ravi Bopara putting together an unbroken third-wicket stand of 61 in 17 overs to see Essex home.

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Phillips had earlier bowled a good line and length to keep the Unicorns batsmen in check after a hostile opening spell from Napier, fresh from claiming a hat-trick in this competition against Glamorgan last Friday.

Napier, who extracted some steep bounce from the Nowton Road end, removed Robin Lett in only the third over of the innings and then felled Mike Thornely with a delivery that struck him high on the chest. The ex-Sussex batsman required several minutes’ treatment before being able to continue, his painful knock eventually ending when trapped lbw by the accurate David Masters.

After reaching 58 for two from 15 overs, the innings then subsided to 71 for six at the half-way point. After England all-rounder Bopara got in on the act with two quick wickets, Phillips profited from two soft dismissals in the space of three balls.

The Unicorns limped along, looking as though they would not reach three figures, but the fact that they did so was down to Chris Benham. The former Hampshire batsman reached his half century off 66 balls with five fours before being last man out, caught at deep mid wicket by Matt Walker, in the very next over.

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