Leicestershire thank Nixon
Leicestershire captain Jeremy Snape spun his side into the Twenty20 Cup final with a four-wicket haul against Essex.
Snape’s men will meet either Surrey or Nottinghamshire in Saturday’s showpiece at Trent Bridge after a 23-run victory.
Essex, propelled by Mark Pettini’s rapid half-century, were well on course to reach their 174-run target when Snape introduced himself from the pavilion end.
But from a position of 79 for two after 10 overs, Essex slipped as Snape turned the screw by taking the pace off the ball.
Former England one-day player Snape started the demise when Pettini dismantled his stumps attempting to cut.
A trio of catches in the deep then accounted for Ravi Bopara, Ryan ten Doeschate and James Middlebrook as Essex’s scoring was suffocated by regular loss of wickets.
England batsman Alastair Cook succumbed to Darren Maddy’s under-arm throw at the non-striker’s end before reaching double figures and Leicestershire’s smart catching backed up their bowlers’ efforts.
Stuart Broad sent down a hostile four-over spell, during which he showed why he is in the shake-up for a full international cap before the summer is out.
The 20-year-old fast bowler, son of former England opening batsman Chris Broad, worked up a head of steam at the start of Essex’s response to pose regular problems.
Essex captain Ronnie Irani was perilously close to being dismissed leg before wicket before he edged behind in the third over without scoring.
Only three runs came from Broad’s opening two overs and he finished with 4-0-23-1 as only Pettini played with authority in a disappointing chase.
Leicestershire’s 173 for four was founded on canny half-centuries from experienced duo HD Ackerman and Paul Nixon.
With the base for the innings set when they came together at 70 for two in the 11th over, they gradually developed the scoring rate and the half-century partnership took just 31 deliveries.
South African Ackerman, who began the day the fourth-highest scorer in this summer’s competition, chipped and guided the ball over fielders and into gaps.
Nixon, meanwhile, drove Essex to distraction with his fondness for the reverse sweep.
Twice in one over from left-arm spinner Tim Phillips, 35-year-old Nixon switched from his southpaw stance to rattle the fence behind square on the offside.
He also used the tactic to hit boundaries off off-spinner James Middlebrook and medium-pacer Bopara.
His own 29-ball half-century came up in spectacular style, moments after Ackerman departed, when he lofted Darren Gough over square for six.
That stroke was the climax of a fierce assault on Gough, recalled to an England squad for the first time in over a year when he was named in the 30-strong provisional list for the ICC Champions Trophy this week, as 18 runs came from his final over.
It distorted his display somewhat, having begun finals day with two tidy overs which cost only six runs and he ran in for the 19th over of the innings with figures of 3-0-13-0.
Essex all-rounder Graeme Napier profited from mishits by Darren Maddy and Jim Allenby which failed to clear the infield and the only other dismissal prior to Andy Bichel trapping Jeremy Snape leg before with the final ball of the innings came when Ackerman was run out.
Nixon was held at point and Ackerman, who had lofted Bopara over mid-wicket for six earlier in the over, perished to Phillips’ throw despite a valiant dive.