Derbyshire could not prevent Essex completing a 24-run victory in a high-scoring floodlit Pro40 Second Division game at the County Ground last night.
A brilliant unbeaten 112 from only 59 balls from Ravi Bopara, who also claimed four wickets, and 108 not out from Jason Gallian lifted the Eagles to 304 for 1. Although the Phantoms made a spirited reply, they fell short at 279 for 8, despite their captain Rikki Clarke's defiant 69.
Clarke's bowlers were dazzled by the strokeplay of Bopara, who more than made up for the fact that Graham Napier's big hitting was not required.
Bopara demolished the Phantoms' attack after Gallian and Mark Pettini had provided him with a launching pad by putting on 143 for the first wicket. Pettini made 73 before he top-edged Graham Wagg to the wicketkeeper in the 24th over but that was Derbyshire's last success.
A pull over the midwicket boundary off Greg Smith was the first of Bopara's seven sixes as he accelerated to a 38-ball half-century after Gallian had completed his 100 from 94 balls. Bopara then dispatched Wagg for four consecutive sixes as his second 50 came off only 16 balls.
Derbyshire started well, with Chris Rogers and Dan Birch sharing an opening stand of 75 before Bopara bowled Birch with a slower ball.
Jamie Pipe and Wagg fell victim to the climbing run rate and, with 37 needed off the last two overs, Clarke's innings ended when he chipped to cover.
Scoreboard, Digest, page 48