Blast From The Past: Essex v Sussex


This is the second of a seven-part series, with a look back at a memorable game from the past against each of Essex’s 2024 home Vitality Blast opponents.

Essex (168-6) beat Sussex (159-9) by nine runs
Hove County Ground, 22nd August 2019

It’s hardly a situation that most people will ever find themselves in, but the apparent expert advice when faced with a shark attack is to stand your ground and fight back.

While it would have been overdramatic to suggest that Essex were in that kind of danger during their 2019 clash with Sussex in Hove, they were still up against it when they stepped into the Sharks’ tank.

At the point of Luke Wright winning the toss and opting to put Essex in to bat, the hosts were top of the South Group and had lost just once.

However, by the end, the Eagles had secured a vital win that kick-started a successful late surge for the knockout stages, and no Essex fan needs a reminder of how 2019 eventually ended up playing out.

Dan Lawrence top-scored for the visitors with an unbeaten anchor innings of 59 off 43, while Ravi Bopara added some late flourishes with a 24-ball 45 to post a competitive total.

Then, just when Sussex thought it was safe to go back in the water to begin the chase, Mohammad Amir returned 4/29 and Simon Harmer picked up 2/19 to ensure the hosts fell just short.

Tom Westley had begun the Essex innings in confident fashion, driving Jason Behrendorff’s first ball for four, just prior to doing exactly the same to Reece Topley’s first delivery too.

Westley continued to find gaps in the field with enough regularity to keep the scoreboard ticking over, providing the glue in the opening exchanges before lofting Will Beer to Behrendorff in the deep for 34.

With the aim of no further losses on their minds, Lawrence and Ryan ten Doeschate guided the Eagles to 68-3 by the halfway point, before the former decided he had seen enough.

A consecutive pair of cleanly-struck sixes down the ground off Danny Briggs followed, before he repeated the trick against David Wiese in the 15th to add to his stand with Bopara.

That fifth-wicket partnership eventually totalled a crucial 82 in just 51 balls and included Lawrence’s individual fifty from 29 deliveries, providing a crucial momentum shift.

By the time Bopara clubbed Topley to Chris Jordan from the penultimate ball, Essex were firmly in the game, finishing just ahead of the 2019 Blast’s average first-innings score to set up a thrilling chase.

Amir gave the Eagles a significant boost in his first spell, seeing both Phil Salt and Luke Wright hole out, before Aaron Beard bounced out Alex Carey to leave Sussex on the back foot inside the powerplay.

Wiese fought back, in partnership with Laurie Evans, and took a particular interest in Delport and Paul Walter to haul Sussex back into the ascendancy at halfway, standing at 86-3.

However, the pendulum swung again when Walter removed Evans for 35 before Harmer took care of Harry Finch for a golden duck.

While key man Wiese was still in the middle, Sussex retained hope, and when he cut Walter away for four to reach a 26-ball half century in the 13th over, their target was a very doable 63 off 43.

Like he so often does, though, Harmer provided the breakthrough moment when the Namibian international was pinned lbw while trying to sweep, departing for 66 off 37.

Overseas duo Adam Zampa and Amir then drove home that latest momentum swing at the game’s most crucial point, returning combined figures across the 18th and 19th overs of 3-5.

That included Amir’s removal of Chris Jordan, a potential dangerman, for a surprisingly stodgy run-a-ball 19, before he put Essex one scalp away by castling Behrendorff.

Despite being nine down, the Sharks still needed only 18, giving a feeling of unlikely-but-possible about the final over, for which the ball was thrown to Beard.

The seamer confidently delivered the goods, though, conceding only eight, and the Eagles had not only picked up two precious points, but proved they could hold their nerve in a high-pressure situation.

Essex had followed that expert advice, staring down the marauding Sharks and fighting back, and ultimately emerging with crucial points that saw them go on to sneak into the top four.

As for the events that followed in that year’s knockout stages, and at Finals Day in particular, they will be forever etched in Essex history.

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