Faltering Eagles fight back to beat the Panthers
The Essex Eagles overcame a lacklustre batting display to seal a eight run victory over the Middlesex Panthers to keep them in the race to seal a place in the Friends Life t20 quarters finals.
Having struggled with the bat, the Eagles looked down and out until Ryan ten Doeschate (28) and Graham Napier (23) led a lower order recovery which was completed by Tim Phillips who scored 21 runs from just 12 balls to help the home side reach 139-9.
With a victory target of 140 to defend, the Eagles picked up wickets at regular intervals to restrict the lowly Panthers to a total of 131-8, thanks to some economical bowling from Phillips (13-1) and Tim Southee (24-2).
Paul Stirling (19) got the innings off to a good start but it was left to Ryan McLaren to cause a few nervous moments towards the end of the innings after he smashed 35 runs from 30 deliveries as the Eagles failed to close out the game.
With the pressure mounting the home side were docked 6 penalty runs after they were penalised for falling to start the 20th over in the allocated time to leave the Panthers needing 21 runs from the reaming two overs.
Despite the penalty the Panthers failed to capitalise on the Eagles misfortunes as McLaren and Tom Smith (13) were unable to see the Panthers home as they succumbed to their 10th defeat to remain rooted to the bottom of the table.
Having been reduced to 72-7, the Eagles were indebted to big hitting all rounder Napier who smashed 21 runs off the bowling of Smith (35-2) in the 16th over to help kick start the innings after the home side had suffered a top order batting collapse.
Adam Wheater (21) got the innings off to a good start but it was left to Napier and ten Doeschate to lead the recovery after the Eagles big hitting top order failed to fire once again.
Steven Crook (27-2) and McLaren (32-2) helped restrict the Eagles while England bowler Steven Finn (17-1) conceded just 17 runs from his three overs after being given permission to play by the ECB.
The victory moves the Eagles up into 4th place in the Southern group, joining the Kent Spitfires and Sussex Sharks on 12 points as the group stages draw towards a dramatic conclusion with up to seven teams still in the hunt for a place in the quarter finals.