Essex storm to victory
Ravi Bopara and Tom Westley plundered half-centuries as Essex stormed to a convincing eight-wicket victory over Gloucestershire at Chelmsford, which put the Eagles top of NatWest T20 Blast South Division.
Set a target of 163, following 74 from Gloucestershire batsman Hamish Marshall, the third-wicket pairing set about the visitors' bowlers, who were crashed over and out of the Chelmsford ground on numerous occasions.
England's limited-overs batsman Bopara closed out what was a fifth T20 victory following a run of half-a-dozen sixes in his 66, which came from 39 balls. Westley, meanwhile, rattled off an unbeaten 55 from 42 deliveries, with five boundaries.
Essex, who won the toss and elected to field, forced an early breakthrough when David Masters bowled Alex Gidman for two and Gloucestershire were 20 for one off three overs.
Masters struck again when he cleaned up captain Michael Klinger (15) with only another six on the board.
Bopara then dismissed Ian Cockbain (five) with his first ball and the visitors were on the back foot at 48 for three from seven overs.
Gloucestershire, looking for a third victory in the format, finally made some progress as Marshall and Benny Howell steered them on to 74 without further loss at the half-way stage.
However, Tim Phillips then accounted for Howell (19) before Marshall's half-century helped push the Gladiators pushed past 100.
Dan Housego (five) failed to hang around as he was bowled by Reece Topley, with Gloucestershire 114 for five off 15 overs.
A quickfire 23 from wicketkeeper Cameron Herring - including a big six off a no ball from Topley - helped the visitors on to 160.
In the last over, Marshall was finally out, caught by Phillips off Tymal Mills, his 47-ball knock including eight boundaries.
Masters finished with two wickets for 17 from his four overs.
Essex openers Mark Pettini and Jesse Ryder put on a brisk 30 off four overs.
Gloucestershire bowler Tom Smith removed Pettini for 13, but New Zealander all-rounder Ryder continued to find the boundary.
In the seventh over, Howell had Ryder caught behind, his 25 including three fours and a six, with Essex at 51 for two.
However, Bopara and Westley soon pushed the Eagles on again at the halfway stage, with some aggressive batting leading them both past 50.
Bopara crashed Howell for succesive sixes into the Hayes Close End as Essex reached 143, needing 20 from the final 18 balls.
Another big hit followed off the last delivery of Tom Smith's next over, and after one more out of the ground from the England all-rounder, victory was wrapped up with nine balls to spare.