Westley is the difference
TOM Westley scored a brilliant unbeaten half century as Essex defeated Gloucestershire by 25 runs.
He top-scored with 86 not out and shared in stands of 81 and 105 with Cameron Delport and Dan Lawrence for the first and third wickets respectively as Essex registered their highest score in matches against Gloucestershire, eclipsing the 204-4 they made in a winning cause at Chelmsford in 2011.
Delport and Lawrence also contributed half centuries to propel the visitors to an imposing 206-3 on a used pitch.
Undone by the loss of early wickets, Gloucestershire left themselves with too much to do, their top-order shortcomings rendering a frenetic fifth wicket stand of 93 in 42 balls between Jack Taylor and Ryan Higgins inconsequential as they came up short at 1815.
The decision to restore Westley to the top of the order following a spell at number three paid dividends for Essex as their opening pair staged a boundary-laden stand of 81 inside nine overs.
Hard-hitting South African Delport adopted the aerial route and took the eye initially, clubbing five sixes and two fours in harvesting 51 from 31 balls.
Dropped at mid-off by Andrew Tye off the bowling of David Payne when on 23, Delport made good his escape as the visitors posted their highest opening partnership of the campaign.
Thereafter, Westley took centre stage, striking the ball cleanly, finding the gaps with the aid of adept placement and running furiously between the wickets in raising a 36-ball half century.
Aided and abetted by Lawrence, who proved adept at rotating the strike, Westley launched a violent assault on Tom Smith’s slow left arm spin as the 14th over yielded 24 runs.
But he was denied what would have been a third T20 hundred by Lawrence, who dominated the strike in smashing a 27-ball 50. Promoted up the order for this match, Lawrence raised that landmark in the grand manner, hoisting Tye over long-on for six, one of three maximums in a high-octane innings. The third wicket realised 105 runs from 52 balls and effectively carried the game out of Gloucestershire’s reach.
Having set his stall out to carry his bat, Westley finished on 86 not out from 54 balls, having accrued seven fours and three sixes.
Under pressure to start fast, Gloucestershire lost Miles Hammond and the talismanic Michael Klinger inside five overs. When James Bracey holed out to long-on two overs later, the hosts were 43-3 and up against it.
Making his T20 debut, Aaron Beard then accounted for Ian Cockbain, held at mid-off, as Gloucestershire’s top order crumbled under duress.
Required to chase down 139 runs from 55 deliveries, Higgins and Taylor traded almost exclusively in boundaries to at least give home supporters something to cheer.
Higgins raised a 28-ball 50 with a huge maximum over square leg, but when Taylor holed out in the deep for 42 in the 18th over with 46 still needed, the game was all but up.
Higgins finished on 77 not out from 43 balls, with three sixes and six fours.
Gloucestershire head coach Richard Dawson said: “We didn’t play our best cricket the other night (at Glamorgan) and we weren’t at our best here either. On this occasion, we’ve been made to pay for it.
“I don’t think we bowled particularly well at any stage.
“We let them get away and, although Benny Howell gave us back a bit of control, we weren’t able to exert pressure from both ends.
“Essex worked out Tom Smith really well and never lost their momentum.
“We lost it in the first six or seven overs of our innings. That total should have been one we could chase down on that pitch, but we lost too many wickets up top.
“Jack Taylor and Ryan Higgins played good cricket shots and kept it simple, but the damage had already been done. There are lessons to be learned and we need to learn them quickly.”
Jack Taylor’s innings of 42 against Essex was all in vain for Gloucestershire