The Road to the Vitality Blast Quarter-Finals


When the Eagles closed out a clinical victory over Sussex Sharks in Hove on Friday night, they had secured a place in the Vitality Blast Quarter-Finals with a game to spare.

That win was the Team’s third in succession and they would go on to make it four in a row the following day against Glamorgan at Chelmsford, hitting Essex’s highest-ever T20 score in the process.

The Eagles will head to Manchester in fine form, winning six of their last seven Vitality Blast fixtures. Here is the story of their tournament so far:

Matt Critchley, Dan Sams and Adam Rossington become Eagles

28.10.21, 16.03.22 & 04.04.22
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The journey to the T20 knockout stages started long before the competition got underway. After a 2021 campaign which showed glimpses of promise, shrewd signings throughout the autumn of 2021 and early-stages of 2022 added strength and experience to the squad.

While Critchley and Rossington have their chance to impact games for Essex across all formats, their short-format prowess has already been on show.

Until a knee injury interrupted his campaign, Matt Critchley was leading the MVP rankings and Adam Rossington smashed the Eagles’ highest individual total this season (95 from 50 balls) in a crucial fixture against Sussex Sharks.

Dan Sams was signed for his all-round abilities and has lived up to his name, bowling tricky overs at the top and tail of the innings as well as striking lusty blows with the bat and sweeping the boundary in the field. His highlight has undoubtedly been a 24-ball 71 against Sussex Sharks where half of the deliveries he faced flew to the boundary.

Kent Spitfires v Essex Eagles

Result: Essex won by 4 wickets
Top Scorer: Paul Walter (47*, 32 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Matt Critchley (1/16, 3 overs)
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The Eagles wasted no time in opening their Vitality Blast account. Travelling to Canterbury to face last year’s champions the Kent Spitfires, a nerveless 47* from Paul Walter and 21* from Simon Harmer saw the team chase their target of 185 down.

Bowling first, Eagles fans got a glimpse of Matt Critchley’s abilities with the ball as he combined with fellow spinners Simon Harmer (1/30) and Aron Nijjar (1/26) to restrict Kent to 184 on a flat track at Canterbury.

In response, a new opening partnership of Adam Rossington (29) and Will Buttleman (37) got the Team off to a flyer before wickets fell throughout the middle overs.

But Paul Walter first combined with Tom Westley, and then Simon Harmer to guide Essex to victory with two balls to spare.

Somerset v Essex Eagles

Result: Somerset won by 6 wickets
Top Scorer: Matt Critchley (60, 38 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Simon Harmer (2/22, 4 overs)
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The Team then journeyed westwards to face the second of last year’s finalists Somerset at Taunton. The game would be a forgettable one as rain delays and then Will Smeed and Rilee Rossouw thwarted the Eagles.

Batting first, rain started to fall just as the Eagles innings was threatening to get going, thanks to a great partnership between new number 3, Michael Pepper (37) and Matt Critchley (60). Coming back out to bat and facing a shortened innings, wickets tumbled to leave Essex 139/9 at the end of their 18 overs.

Despite Ben Allison picking up the early wicket of Tom Banton, Somerset’s chase proved to be a comfortable one as Will Smeed (58) and Rilee Rossouw (67) shared a 102-run partnership in 7.4 overs to put the game beyond all doubt.

Simon Harmer proved his class yet again, taking 2/22 from his four overs on a ground where runs were flowing.

Essex Eagles v Hampshire Hawks

Result: Essex won by 8 wickets
Top Scorer: Michael Pepper (75, 42 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Sam Cook & Simon Harmer (2/16, 3 overs)
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Appearing in front of a home crowd for the first time, the Eagles, and particularly Michael Pepper, gave a glimpse of what was to come at The Cloud County Ground by thumping Hampshire Hawks in rapid time.

Batting first, Hampshire scored an under-par 150-6 thanks to excellent spells from Sam Cook and Simon Harmer who each took 2/16 in three overs.

Chasing 151 for victory, Michael Pepper and Matt Critchley combined for a 100-run partnership to seal a huge win for the Eagles.

Pepper’s attacking intent was on display as he hit 9 fours and 4 sixes in his 42-ball 75*, while Critchley continued his fine start to the season with an equally quick 45*.

Glamorgan v Essex Eagles

Result: Glamorgan won by 6 wickets
Top Scorer: Matt Critchley (38, 26 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Matt Critchley (1/17, 4 overs)
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The Eagles fell to their second loss of the season against Glamorgan in Cardiff.

After being inserted into bat, the Eagles’ innings struggled to get going with three wickets falling in the powerplay and runs not coming freely.

A battling partnership between Matt Critchley (38) and Paul Walter (20) threatened an Essex recovery, but once that partnership was broken wickets continued to fall and although Tom Westley (23*) found the boundary on a couple of occasions, the Eagles were restricted to 113-9.

Dan Sams picked up the wicket of David Lloyd in the first over to give the Eagles hope, but that was quickly snuffed out by Sam Northeast, whose 44 was the highest score of the match.

Glamorgan chased the target down in 16.5 overs with Sams, Critchley and Nijjar picking up the wickets to fall.

Gloucestershire v Essex Eagles


NO RESULT, match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Essex Eagles V Kent Spitfires

Result: Essex won by 7 wickets
Top Scorer: Michael Pepper (50, 29 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Sam Cook (2/14, 4 overs)
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Essex Eagles marked their second home Vitality Blast fixture of the season with another Battle of the Bridge victory over Kent Spitfires.

The decision to bowl at the toss proved a good one as Sams, Allison and Cook tore through Kent’s top order, leaving them on 17-4 after 4.1 overs.

A recovery of sorts, led by Alex Blake (38) saw the Spitfires post 130-9 with Sams, Allison, Cook and Critchley all picking up two wickets.

Another dramatic Michael Pepper innings of 50 from 29 balls put the Eagles well on their way, before Paul Walter (33* from just 16 balls) and Matt Critchley (18*) powered Essex to the target in just 15.3 overs.

Hampshire Hawks v Essex Eagles

Result: Hampshire won by 32 runs
Top Scorer: Paul Walter (27, 24 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Matt Critchley (3/25, 4 overs)
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The Eagles reached the halfway mark of the competition in good shape having won half of their games, despite not yet having won successive matches. This pattern would not change after a loss at Hampshire.

Batting first, Hampshire were buoyed by a return to the top of the order for James Vince, who picked up 44 and was well aided by Tom Prest (30) and Joe Weatherley (38) as they made 155/6 on a tricky Southampton wicket.

Ben Allison, enjoying an extended run in the starting XI claimed career-best T20 figures of 3/33 in his four overs, whilst Critchley chipped in with three wickets of his own.

Chasing 156, Essex’s innings struggled for momentum and although the top six all made it into double figures, no one was able to go on and make a match-defining contribution.

The Eagles were eventually bowled out for 123 in the final over of their innings, which left them placed 4th in the South Group table after playing half of their games.

At the halfway stage:


Essex Eagles v Middlesex

Result: Essex won by 61 runs
Top Scorer: Feroze Khushi (67, 40 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Sam Cook (3/18, 3 overs)
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The Eagles marked the first Friday night T20 at Chelmsford in fine style as they treated a sell-out crowd to a trouncing of Middlesex.

Feroze Khushi, playing his second game of the season, lit up the Essex innings after a watchful start, striking 67* before Paul Walter used his long levers to find the boundary eight times in a knock of 58* from 35 balls.

The pair almost single-handedly guided the Eagles to 186-6, a total which would prove too much for Middlesex as they subsided to 125 all out.

For the second game in a row at Chelmsford, Essex took a host of early wickets to leave Middlesex in trouble at 66-4. Sam Cook and Matt Critchley then swooped in to pick up three wickets apiece and round up the Middlesex innings with 10 balls remaining.

Essex Eagles v Sussex Sharks

Result: Essex won by 11 runs
Top Scorer: Dan Sams (71, 24 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Matt Critchley (2/37, 4 overs)
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The Eagles maintained their unbeaten streak at home in stunning style as fans at The Cloud County Ground were treated to the biggest run-fest in Blast history, with 477 runs scored across both innings.

After being put in to bat, each of the top four in the Eagles’ batting order reached the 30s in quick time, laying a solid foundation for the middle order to launch.

That happened when Dan Sams came to the crease. He proceeded to hit half of his balls to the ropes in a 24-ball 71 consisting of 6 fours and 6 sixes. The Eagles finished with their highest score in T20 history, 244-7.

Despite losing Luke Wright early on, Sussex Sharks looked well set to do the impossible and chase down Essex’s mammoth total.

Mohammad Rizwan and Ali Orr took the score to 106 from just 7.4 overs before Simon Harmer came on and took the wicket of Orr for 38.

Rizwan (66), along with Tom Alsop (45) and Ravi Bopara (51) took the Sharks to within touching distance of the Eagles total, but when Sams took the wicket of Bopara in the final over, the Sharks were destined to fall just short, eventually finishing on 233-6.

Essex Eagles v Somerset

Result: Somerset won by 8 wickets
Top Scorer: Michael Pepper (86, 49 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Dan Sams (1/29, 4 overs)
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Families turned out in their droves to support the Eagles on Essex County Cricket Club’s annual Family Day.

Unfortunately, the one missing element of the occasion was the result. That didn’t appear to dampen spirits as excited youngsters huddled to get posters, bats and shirts signed by their heroes at the end of the game.

Batting first, the Eagles struggled to match the high-octane hitting seen by crowds two days prior. However, Michael Pepper found his stride yet again and smashed an unbeaten 86 along with Paul Walter, who hit 58 from 29 balls, to see the Essex to a respectable but not necessarily intimidating 188-5.

Somerset got off to a rapid start in response and although Will Smeed and Tom Banton fell in quick succession to Dan Sams and Ben Allison respectively, Rilee Rossouw was on hand again to see Somerset home.

This time, he was joined by Tom Abell and the pair of them found the boundary at ease to chase down the target in 17.3 overs.

Middlesex v Essex Eagles

Result: Essex won by 21 runs
Top Scorer: Dan Lawrence (51, 35 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Sam Cook (3/23, 4 overs)
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Essex headed to The Home of Cricket knowing that a strong finish to the group stages would see them qualify for the Quarter-Finals.

The Team was boosted by the return of Dan Lawrence, who hadn’t turned out for the Eagles since a recurrence of a hamstring injury sustained earlier in the season. They would have to do without the services of Matt Critchley, who picked up a knee injury against Somerset.

After losing the toss and being asked to bat, a familiar tale for the Eagles, Dan Lawrence (51) and Tom Westley (50) came together to drag the Eagles to 161-6 on a pitch where batters had to play themselves in.

Middlesex’s response got off to a sedate start before all hell broke loose in the third over when Sam Cook, bowling his first over of the game, ripped through their top order with an astonishing triple-wicket maiden.

A stand between Stephen Eskinazi and Jack Davies threatened a recovery for Middlesex, but when the former was out with the score on 95, their innings never recovered.

Sam Cook’s three wickets were the highlight, but Simon Harmer and Aaron Beard, playing his first game of the season, each chipped in with two wickets as Middlesex finished on 140-8.

Essex Eagles v Surrey

Result: Essex won by 43 runs
Top Scorer: Paul Walter (49, 33 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Aaron Beard (4/29, 4 overs)
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The Eagles faced table-toppers Surrey knowing that with a win they’d have one foot in the door of the knockout spots.

By this point, Essex were accustomed with settings totals and when they were asked to do so again by Surrey, it was the two form batters of the campaign in Michael Pepper and Paul Walter who rose to the occasion.

Pepper took Surrey’s attack on from ball one and his 18-ball 48 set the stage for Walter (49) and Harmer (29*) to see the Eagles to 198-7 at the end of the 20 overs.

Aaron Beard took the key wicket of Jason Roy early in Surrey’s chase and despite Will Jacks (26), Jamie Smith (30) and Rory Burns (37) giving Surrey a glimmer of hope, a flurry of late wickets saw Surrey limp to 155-9.

Beard was the star of the show on his Chelmsford return and picked up career-best T20 figures of 4/29 in his four overs. He was well supported by Simon Harmer who kept the run-scoring to a minimum from his spell and also claimed a pair of wickets.

Sussex Sharks v Essex Eagles

Result: Essex won by 28 runs
Top Scorer: Adam Rossington (95, 50 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Simon Harmer (3/18, 4 overs)
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Essex Eagles secured a Quarter-Final place with a game to spare in the Vitality Blast group stages when they beat Sussex Sharks on their own turf.

The victory was largely down to a stunning knock of 95 from 50 balls by Adam Rossington, who had just signed a 3-year contract with the Club.

With wickets falling around him, Rossington flayed a Sussex attack including Rashid Khan to all parts. When his wicket fell, just shy of a maiden T20 century, Tom Westley picked up where Rossington left off with a 30-ball 54 to guide Essex to 197-8.

The Sharks got off to a rapid response thanks to Ali Orr, who smashed 41 from 21 balls. However, Simon Harmer entered the attack and controlled the middle overs, picking up 3/18 in four overs and stifling the Sharks’ progress.

Sam Cook and Dan Sams then snuffed out any chance of a Sussex win with an excellent display of death bowling. Sussex eventually finished on 169-8, well short of their target.

Essex Eagles v Glamorgan

Result: Essex won by 69 runs
Top Scorer: Dan Lawrence (71, 37 balls)
Best Bowling Figures: Dan Sams (3/20, 4 overs)
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With Quarter-Final qualification secured, the Eagles went into their last match of the group stages knowing that a win or a tie would keep them in the running for a home Quarter-Final.

In front of the TV cameras, the Eagles proceeded to smash their highest total in T20 history, breaking the record for the second time in a matter of weeks.

Their mammoth total of 254-5 unsurprisingly comprised of contributions from the entire batting unit. The two most telling came from Dan Lawrence (71 from 37 balls) and Paul Walter (58 from 23 balls) who formed one of the most destructive partnerships Chelmsford has seen, battering 156 from the final 10 overs of the Eagles’ innings.

Glamorgan’s chase got off to the worst possible start, Aaron Beard and Dan Sams making early breakthroughs to leave the visitors reeling at 9-3. Despite a brilliant effort of 97 from 52 balls by Sam Northeast, Glamorgan never looked like getting close and eventually fell 69 runs short of Essex’s total.

While the Eagles held their end of the bargain, results in Taunton or Manchester meant that they faced an away Quarter-Final against Lancashire, mirroring that of the trophy-winning 2019 season.

The Final Standings:


The Standout Performers:

mpep leading run scorere

leading wicket-taker hamrer