STAND-IN skipper Mark Pettini led Essex to a win in their first match of this year’s T20 Blast against Middlesex at Lord’s.
Pettini, who is captaining the side in the absence of Ryan ten Doeschate, carried his bat scoring 95 not out as Essex chased down Middlesex’s total of 180 with seven balls to spare.
Ravi Bopara also played a key role with his quick blast of three successive boundaries off the bowling of James Harris effectively deciding the match in the Eagles favour.
The match was also notable for the debut of Essex’s latest overseas signing Jesse Ryder, with the Kiwi hitting 15 off 14 balls while Alastair Cook struck 22 before being caught by his England team-mate Eoin Morgan of the bowling of Ravi Patel.
Reece Topley was Essex’s star with the ball, taking three wickets from his four overs for the loss of 27 runs, including the scalps of Joe Denly, Daniel Christian and Andrew Balbirnie at the death as Middlesex finished on 180-5.
Pettini, whose score of 95 was his best ever in T20 cricket, said it was his best display in the shortest format of the game and said it was crucial Essex got their campaign off to a winning start as they will soon be deprived of Cook and Bopara who will swap county for international cricket.
“I’ve probably not played better in a T20 match and it was really nice to start this campaign with a win. We are aware that we are losing a couple of guys in Ravi and Cookie pretty soon so it was important to get the win,” said Pettini who also praised the bowling of Topley.
“Topley bowled fantastically,” he said. “The guy has been out for three or four months with a stress fracture, it was his first proper game back and it was a brilliant finish to the innings. If you have got a guy who can hit the hole at the death and also bowl the slower balls it makes a big difference.
Middlesex skipper Morgan, who will lead England in their T20 match against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, said: “We should have got 200, maybe 195. That would have been the perfect template for the game. But we didn’t finish as well as we would have liked. Essex continued to take wickets towards the end which made it difficult to get something going once one guy got out.”
Essex return to the longer form of the game tomorrow when they travel to Worcestershire in division two of the county championship.