Bichel sees off Essex fireworks at the finish

Worcestershire 204 Essex 183
Worcestershire win by 21 runs

Abject failure against Gloucestershire in last year's final at Lord's clearly still rankles, although for much of the day it just did not look as if Worcestershire had scored anything like a defendable total. But as things turned out it was.

Abject failure against Gloucestershire in last year's final at Lord's clearly still rankles, although for much of the day it just did not look as if Worcestershire had scored anything like a defendable total. But as things turned out it was.

There was still an edgy finish which saw Darren Gough flailing with the bat, but Australian Andy Bichel proved a canny choice by captain Ben Smith to send down the penultimate over, the first ball of which saw Gough skying a return catch.

But up until the 41st over it had looked to be Essex easing into the semi-finals. Andy Flower had grafted for a half-century before being brilliantly run out by Jeremy Batty, and James Middlebrook weighed in with an encouraging 47. But after both men fell the rest of the Essex innings crumbled.

Middlebrook had to undergo an ordeal by video before he departed. Kabir Ali's accurate throw when the batsman had turned a ball fine off his legs flew straight to wicketkeeper Steven Rhodes who appeared to have broken the wicket. But closer scrutiny did seem to suggest that the stumps had been disturbed fractionally before the ball had arrived in his gloves. TV umpire David Constant spent minutes agonising over the decision before making his adjudication. "The longer those decisions take the more you expect them to go in the batsman's favour," said man of the match Smith afterwards.

In this case though it went against Middlebrook, and ultimately Essex, who had not been helped by some tight bowling - especially from Bichel - superb fielding, from the home team and the loss of three early wickets for just six runs.

The Worcestershire innings had also comprised a string of slips, stumbles and wicket falls. If the Essex progress later in the day was sluggish, the rate at which the home side gathered their runs could be described as a snail's pace.

Smith the Worcestershire captain was the mainstay of the innings with a half-century, and he and David Leatherdale put on a telling sixth-wicket partnership of 76 runs.

The real fireworks came at the death. Gough's last over - the penultimate of the innings - went for a brutal 15 runs, including three boundaries, one from Kabir Ali and two thumping ones from Rhodes. The troublesome pair were picked off in the final over by the worthy left-arm paceman Scott Brant.

* Andrew Flintoff is expected to play a full part in the NatWest series which starts on 24 June. Following his withdrawal from today's C&G Trophy quarter-final between Lancashire and Yorkshire there were fears that the Achilles tendon injury he picked up during the third Test would keep him out of England's one-day matches against New Zealand and the West Indies. Flintoff was cleared after an x-ray and a scan revealed there was no serious damage.

NEW ROAD SCOREBOARD

CHELTENHAM & GLOUCESTER TROPHY QUARTER-FINAL

WORCESTERSHIRE V ESSEX

NEW ROAD (One day): Worcestershire won by 21 runs.

Worcestershire won toss

WORCESTERSHIRE

Runs 6s 4s Bls Min

S D Peters c Foster b Brant 4 0 0 12 15

V S Solanki c Cook b Kaneria 32 0 4 56 74

A J Bichel b Gough 0 0 0 3 4

G A Hick c Napier b Bopara 14 0 2 31 47

*B F Smith c Middlebrook b Bopara 54 0 5 72 84

A J Hall c Foster b Middlebrook 6 0 0 26 27

D A Leatherdale c Bopara b Kaneria 42 0 1 55 69

G J Batty b Gough 14 0 1 23 25

ÝS J Rhodes c Irani b Brant 15 0 2 11 21

Kabir Ali b Brant 11 0 2 10 11

M S Mason not out 1 0 0 1 0

Extras (b2 lb4 w5) 11

Total (50 overs) 204

Fall: 1-13, 2-14, 3-52, 4-54, 5-75, 6-151, 7-170, 8-178, 9-203.

Bowling: D Gough 10-0-49-2, S A Brant 10-3-19-3, G R Napier 6-0-45-0, R S Bopara 4-0-18-2, Danish Kaneria 10-1-32-2, J D Middlebrook 10-1-35-1.

ESSEX

Runs 6s 4s Bls Min

W I Jefferson b Bichel 19 0 4 37 42

A Flower run out 58 0 7 98 142

A N Cook lbw b Mason 0 0 0 4 4

*R C Irani c Leatherdale b Ali 1 0 0 9 10

ÝJ S Foster c and b Mason 8 0 1 19 21

R S Bopara run out 11 0 2 16 18

J D Middlebrook run out 47 0 5 57 84

G R Napier b Bichel 13 1 1 20 18

D Gough c and b Bichel 11 0 1 19 36

Danish Kaneria c Peters b Leatherdale 2 0 0 6 5

S A Brant not out 3 0 0 4 4

Extras (lb5 w5) 10

Total (48.1 overs) 183

Fall: 1-30, 2-31, 3-36, 4-57, 5-75, 6-116, 7-144, 8-176, 9-179.

Bowling: A J Bichel 9.1-1-27-3, M S Mason 10-0-32-2, Kabir Ali 6-1-29-1, G J Batty 10-1-35-0, A J Hall 7-0-31-0, D A Leatherdale 6-0-24-1.

Umpires: P J Hartley and A G T Whitehead.

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