But one-day cricket is a game of fluctuations and should Essex, who made 232, manage to win this match against Middlesex today, they will owe much to the 19-year-old Stephen Peters.
Coming in at No 7, with the score on 135 for 5, Peters top-scored with a brillianty assured 58, which included a mighty six, struck high over long-on. Essex have a habit of unearthing nuggets, and in Peters they appear to have found another.
On a pitch with some spice in it, the visitors began badly, losing Darren Robinson to the fifth ball of the match - Angus Fraser producing a beauty to find the edge and have him caught behind. Nasser Hussain followed next, caught by Mark Ramprakash at square leg.
Two overs later and 40 yards deeper, the Middlesex captain dropped Robert Rollins on one, as Essex played the pinch-hitting card. Crazy as the ploy appeared on a seaming pitch, Rollins weighed in with some meaty blows, adding 55 with Stuart Law before he was taken at short extra cover by Keith Dutch.
Middlesex have not appeared in a B&H semi-final for 12 years and their chances of doing so soared with the dismissal of Law, six runs later for 40, well caught by Justin Langer at gully. At 100 for 4, Essex badly needed a partnership. Instead they lost both Ronnie Irani and Paul Grayson, their last bastions of experience in quick succession. At that point Middlesex relaxed and Peters ensured his bowlers would have something to work with today.Reuse content