Darren Lehmann is used to standing on the deck of a burning ship, surveying the wreckage of other people's failings, but not even he could save Yorkshire from defeat last night as they crashed out of the Twenty20 Cup in disappointing fashion.
Such was Lehmann's importance to Yorkshire's hopes of qualifying for the finals day on August 12 that he was pressed into service at Chelmsford despite missing the last two matches with a calf injury.
The Australian batsman never looked entirely at ease, with his injury still giving him cause for concern, but he performed as staunchly as anyone for the visiting side on an uncomfortable night for Yorkshire and their supporters.
Lehmann's unbeaten 40, made from 39 balls with three fours, was one of the highlights of a below-par batting effort as Yorkshire totalled 143-7 after winning the toss.
Lehmann came in with the score on 39-3, after Michael Lumb, Craig White and Anthony McGrath had fallen cheaply, and dealt heavily in trademark nudges and deft deflections to help the team towards a competitive total.
Aside from a fourth-wicket stand of 43 with Gerard Brophy, however, and a seventh-wicket alliance of 44 with Richard Dawson, Lehmann received precious little support as wickets tumbled.
Essex were wobbling in reply on 73-5, but an unbeaten sixth-wicket stand of 76 between Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster helped ensure the majority of a sell-out 6,500 crowd went home happy.
Although Yorkshire were boosted by Lehmann's return, they were sorely inconvenienced by the absence of Tim Bresnan, who failed to recover from the stiff back that kept him out of Sunday's NatWest Pro40 League game against Leicestershire at Scarborough.
As preparation for this fixture, that match was far from ideal, with Yorkshire having scored 96 en route to a 167-run defeat. They began this game in the worst possible fashion, Michael Lumb falling to the third ball of the innings, well caught at deep mid-wicket by Mark Pettini off the former Yorkshire fast bowler Darren Gough.
Gough produced an outstanding first over, in which Brophy struggled to lay bat on ball, but the wicketkeeper was soon into his stride, conjuring some inventive paddles and punching drives.
Brophy had written himself into the record books earlier this month when he crashed a 14-ball half-century against Derbyshire, thus equalling the fastest fifty in Twenty20's history.
His innings of 43 here was somewhat more sedate, arriving from 31 balls with six boundaries, but it was still the highest score of Yorkshire's innings and continued a general upturn in his batting form.
After White and McGrath fell in successive deliveries from Andy Bichel, Brophy was bowled making room, Andrew Gale got a leading edge and Chris Gilbert was comprehensively defeated in the flight to leave Yorkshire rocking on 94-6. Essex's best bowler was Tim Phillips, who returned 2-11 from four overs.
Essex's batsmen began in blistering fashion. Pettini hoisted Jason Gillespie for two huge leg-side sixes, but two good catches in the deep by Gale, allied to some good bowling by Ajmal Shahzad, served to frustrate Ronnie Irani's team.
However, ten Doeschate and Foster kept their nerve as Essex joined Surrey, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire in the last four.
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