Essex Eagles defeat defending Twenty20 champions with final ball drama to win maiden title
Harmer caught the dangerous Moeen Ali off his own bowling in the final (Photo: Getty Images)

Essex Eagles defeat defending Twenty20 champions with final ball drama to win maiden title

Worcestershire Rapids fell just short of retaining their crown after an inspired spell of bowling from Essex captain Simon Harmer in the closest of Finals Day encounters.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

Essex Eagles captain Simon Harmer executed overall figures of 7-35 from his eight overs and then played a crucial cameo with the bat to cap a momentous first Twenty20 Finals Day for his county.

Despite only just squeezing into the quarter-finals, as was the case with their final opponents and defending champions Worcestershire Rapids, Essex peaked at the optimum time to win their maiden title.

As for the Rapids, they could not become the first side to win successive Twenty20 titles, despite stunning the Edgbaston crowd after recovering from an improbable position to win their semi-final by just one run.

However, left in exactly the same position against Essex - where only a dot or wicket with the final ball would do - Worcestershire could not halt Harmer from striking the winning runs to lead the Eagles to an incredible victory.

Rapids slow down

The first action of the afternoon kicked off a truly spectacular day of cricket at Edgbaston with Worcestershire recovering from an almost impossible position to defeat Nottinghamshire Outlaws.

Despite striking at around ten runs an over in the first four, the impressive spin bowling of Matthew Carter took the vital wicket of Worcestershire's Moeen Ali, the first sign that turners of the ball would play a crucial role across all three matches.

The Rapids stumbled to what appeared to be a relatively lacklustre total of 147-9 with only a late cameo from Ross Whiteley, scoring 36 from 24 with three sixes, taking them to a partially defendable total.

Nottinghamshire duck out

Yet Nottinghamshire looked to be easing their way to the target, spearheaded by a half-century from Alex Hales who has been given another chance to open the door on his England career.

Another Notts star who has seen his international career fall by the wayside, Ben Duckett, held down an end and when he and Dan Christian launched into Wayne Parnell during the 18th over, the Outlaws required just 11 runs from 12 balls to reach a second final in three years.

However, the next over from the 2018 leading wicket taker, Pat Brown, would prove pivotal as he limited the scoring during six balls that manufactured three wickets, including a disastrous run out.

Duckett and the experienced Samit Patel tentatively worked their way to one short of Worcestershire's score, knowing that a single off the recovering Parnell's final ball would see them tie but go through due to losing less wickets. However, Duckett, on 49, missed a cut shot to end Nottinghamshire's campaign in the most dramatic of circumstances.

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Delport fires

A pattern emerged in the second semi-final between Essex and Derbyshire Falcons as an ageing Edgbaston pitch proved easier to score runs earlier in the innings.

Tom Westley and Cameron Delport launched into a barrage of fours as they made 78 for the first wicket in just 48 balls, Delport making 55 from 31, averaging a boundary every three or four balls.

Yet regular wickets and pace off the ball halted Essex' progress as Alex Hughes and Luis Reece shared 4-48 from eight overs. Even Ravi Bopara struggled to get the ball away as the Eagles finished on 160-5.

Falcons glide out on debut

The Falcons' response was to go gung-ho from the outset, striking 14 runs from the first three balls.

Yet their aggressive reply was soon undone with two key moments in the contest. Star batsman Wayne Madsen attempted to attack the inexperienced Aron Nijjar but the spin bowler recovered to dismiss the Derbyshire number three, his first of three wickets.

At 66-3 midway through the eighth over, Derbyshire still had hope of reaching the holy grail on their first Finals Day outing but two wickets in as many balls from captain Harmer would effectively end their chances.

With eight balls remaining, Derbyshire found themselves bowled out for a mere 126, 34 runs short of the Essex total, as spinner Harmer returned figures of 4-19 from his allotted 24 balls.

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Harmer harms the opposition again

Harmer, who has 20 wickets from five South African Tests during 2015 to his name, was at his brilliant best oncemore during the final, making an impact with the ball after winning the toss and opting to field.

Despite losing Hamish Rutherford in the opening over, Moeen counter-attacked and Essex found themselves desperately looking for a way of dismissing the man who boasts the second highest average, third highest strike rate and second highest score in this year's competition.

Yet a beautiful caught and bowled effort from Harmer dismissed Moeen for 32 before repeating his semi-final feat and trapping Ben Cox the very next ball.

Harmer's figures of 3-16 increased the scoreboard pressure before an excellent piece of fielding from Paul Walter ran out the dangerous Riki Wessels to leave the Rapids treading water.

Essex eventually scraped their way to 145-9 as Bopara picked up two wickets in the final over.

Bopara and Harmer see Essex home

The Eagles opted for a different approach to what had gone before, easing their way into the powerplay overs but hindered by the early dismissal of Delport.

Westley anchored them well with 36 from 30 but a top edge off Parnell left the Essex nerves jangling at 65-3 midway through their time at the crease.

Worcestershire captain Moeen continued his impressive Twenty20 form, just weeks after being dropped by the England Test side, to dent the middle order with wickets in successive overs and condemn the Eagles to 82-5 with seven overs remaining. 

Enter Bopara, eventually finishing unbeaten on 36 from 22, who counter-attacked to leave his side needing 12 runs from the final over - against semi-final hero Parnell.

Yet the onus fell on Harmer as Bopara could not farm the strike, the number eight making a vital 18 runs off seven balls. Left in exactly the same position as the first semi-final, where one run would tie but give the batting side victory on less wickets lost, Harmer did what Duckett couldn't and cut Parnell away from victory.

Final day drama that matched a certain other cricket contest earlier in the summer...

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