Thursday 27th July 2021 – The Royal London Cup at The County Ground, Chelmsford
I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but whilst The Hundred has been hitting the headlines, the Royal London Cup has continued to produce some excellent games, some superb individual performances and records have been falling up and down the country.
It would have been ideal if this one was a 11am start, meaning that I could get back to Lords for the Spirit vs Rockets game. Chelmsford is a great venue as a) it is ridiculously quick to get to from London, b) the ground is ridiculously close to the town centre and c) there is always a ridiculous number of runs scored here.
Fun cricketing fact. In the history of T20 games here at The County Ground, no team has defended a score to win lower than 154. That is a mark of how good a batting wicket there is here. It was here that Graham Napier scored a world-record 152 not out from just 58 balls against Sussex in 2008, including 16 sixes. Chelmsford is a batsman’s dream on the right day, and today proved to be just that, although it wasn’t Essex who were breaking the records.
Essex won the toss and decided to bowl first, a mistake they were left to rue during the first 2 1/2 hours of the Worcestershire Rapids innings. Brett D’Oliveira and Jack Hayes built their innings slowly, pushing the run rate through the six an hour after the power play, then up to nearly seven an over as they both reached their fifties. Essex used seven different bowlers in their attempts to remove one (or both of them) and there must have been a temptation at one point to give the ball to Sir Alastair Cook to see if he could take his first ever 50 over wicket in his illustrious career.
On 99 D’Oliveira drove the ball straight into the hands of long on, but with many of the fans on their feet cheering a wicket at last, the players got on with the game, knowing it was a bump ball. The diminutive Rapids opener got his hundred two balls later, an innings of calmness and beautifully timed shots. Haynes was twenty behind at that point but closed the gap, reaching his century 20 minutes later.
Finally, Essex got a breakthrough when D’Oliveira was caught in the deep but by then they had scored a “A-game” record opening partnership for Worcestershire of 243. There was still 14 overs to go and the Rapids were looking at a 350+ score but suddenly lost all rhythm. They lost three more quick wickets, with Hayes still looking solid. In fact, apart from the two openers and a brief but powerful innings of 27 from Dell, no Rapids batsman scored over 8.
Hayes eventually fell for 153, a superb innings of 19 fours and 2 sixes, and the Rapids finished on 338-7, a slightly disappointing total considering the promise at the 35 over mark.
Essex had to go at nearly 7 an over and were never in the races. They fell to 17-4 in the 6th over, with only Cook seemingly able to play shots. In fact, five of the Essex batsmen fell for ducks, facing a total of 16 balls. Apart from Cook (42) and Wheater (77) this could have been one of the biggest one day defeats in Essex’ history, eventually making 156 all out.
Cricket is incredibly unpredictable. Perhaps if Essex would have decided to bat first it would have been a different story but you can’t take anything away for Worcestershire, who batted, bowled and fielded magnificently in front of an appreciative Chelmsford crowd.