SIMON Harmer could not hide his joy after guiding Essex Eagles to their first ever Vitality Blast triumph.

Having begun Finals Day at Edgbaston with a 34-run semi-final win over Derbyshire Falcons, Harmer turned in a man-of-the-match performance and hit the winning runs as Essex beat holders Worcestershire Rapids by four wickets.

And Harmer, who registered best ever Finals Day bowling figures of 7-35 and claimed three Worcestershire wickets, was delighted to see the Eagles pick up silverware after originally looking like they would not even reach the knockout stages of the competition.

Harmer said: “We only won two of our first 10 games.

“It wasn’t a great start to the competition but we got ourselves over the line, into the finals and we’re now going to enjoy this.

“We started to play with freedom in the group stage and Ravi Bopara has been exceptional, especially in the final against a very good Worcestershire side.

“As the tournament progressed everyone chipped in with performances.

“The pitch for the final took some spin and, from a personal point of view, Finals Day could not have gone any better.

“I’m so proud of the players and that this club is so competitive in all formats.

“We won the Championship in 2017 and we’ve got a chance of winning it again this week against Somerset but we’ll enjoy this first.”

Harmer was the hero as Eagles won a last-ball thriller to clinch their first Vitality Blast title.

The Eagles’ captain shone with the ball and then delivered with the bat, smashing 18 from seven balls including a boundary off Wayne Parnell from the final ball as he and Ravi Bopara sealed a stunning four-wicket triumph to end Worcestershire’s hopes of defending their title.

Chasing 146 after Worcestershire scored 145/9, Essex’s hopes appeared to be over when Dan Lawrence’s dismissal in the 14th over left them needing 58 from 35 balls.

But, with Bopara, Essex had hope and he used all his experience to get them back in the game.

Back-to-back boundaries off Ed Barnard were followed by hitting Moeen Ali for six and another maximum off Pat Brown in the 17th over.

With Paul Walter offering good support on his way to 14, Essex got the equation down to 23 from 12 balls.

Walter was bowled by Brown but Harmer strode out and hit his first ball for four.

Wayne Parnell had 12 runs to defend in the final over, although Essex knew they would emerge victorious with 11 runs due to losing fewer wickets.

Parnell conceded six off four balls before Harmer clubbed another boundary down the ground.

That left Essex needing one to get and Harmer squeezed the ball through the offside field for another boundary.

After setting off on a celebratory run followed by his delirious team-mates the first person he hugged was Bopara, whose 36 off 22 overs had been so crucial.

Bopara and Lawrence had earlier taken two wickets each, while Cameron Delport also claimed a scalp.