Liam Plunkett was Yorkshire’s hero as they beat Essex by 20 runs in the Royal London One Day Cup quarter-final tie at Chelmsford. He underlined his class with both bat and ball to book his side a place in the last four against Gloucestershire next month.
Yorkshire successfully defended a total of 252 for 9 having been put into bat and dismissed their hosts for 232.
Plunkett made his first telling contribution after his side had slumped to 202 for 9 after six wickets had crashed for 39 runs in the space of 11 overs. That was the signal for him to cut loose and smash an unbeaten 49 from 32 deliveries during an unbroken last wicket stand of 50 in 5 overs with Matthew Fisher whose contribution was 5.
Plunkett hammered 3 fours and 3 sixes to take his side to a final total of 252 for 9. Then in front of England selector Angus Fraser, he picked up the wickets of Tom Westley, Ravi Bopara and Jesse Ryder, in between which he held a catch at short mid-wicket to get rid of Nick Browne.
Westley and Browne had appeared to have put Essex in firm control after opener Mark Pettini was unluckily run out in the third over when bowler Tm Bresnan deflected a Browne drive onto the stumps at the non-striker’s end with the opener out of his ground.
That paved the way for Browne and Westley to strike the ball fluently while gathering 92 runs in 16 overs before Plunkett got to work with the ball. He started by breaching the defence of Westley after the batsman had struck 54 from as many deliveries with the help of 6 fours and 2 sixes, and after holding the catch that removed Browne for 37, he bowled Jesse Ryder for just 3 before having Bopara superbly caught behind for 17 by diving wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow.
That left Essex 129 for 5 at the halfway stage but they were revived by Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster as they gathered 60 runs in 14 overs without looking in any real trouble.
The stand was broken when Foster, on 30, holed out on the mid-wicket boundary against Will Rhodes before ten Doeschate, immediately after completing his half-century from 64 balls, seven of which he sent to the boundary, before Rhodes struck again to have him caught for 52 by Bresnan at deep long-on.
With his dismissal ,Yorkshire were always favourites for victory and Bresnan and Steven Patterson made sure they achieved it by claiming the last three wickets, the last falling in the 48th over. Plunkett finished with 3 for 58 while Bresnan and Rhodes claimed two each at a cost of 41 and 22 respectively.
Earlier, it was Jack Leaning who dominated the Yorkshire innings with a fine 72 from 99 balls. That effort included 5 fours and 2 sixes before he picked out Aron Nijjar in the deep off the bowling of Reece Topley who finished with 4 for 56 from ten overs.
But as well as Leaning played, it was that later assault by Plunkett which keeps Yorkshire on course for a Lord’s final.
Afterwards, Plunkett said: “We would have liked to have got a few more runs but in the end, we succeeded in getting the job done. I went for a few runs early on but the skipper kept faith in me and I was able to get three crucial wickets to turn the tide back in our favour,.”
Yorkshire captain Alex Lees paid tribute to Plunkett’s efforts. “It was a fine all-round performance on his part. We didn’t get the total we wanted but I’ll always back my bowlers to do their job and all of them came up trumps.”
Essex skipper Ryan ten Doeschate commented on his side’s defeat. “We looked on top for most of the match but unfortunately myself, Nick Browne, Tom Westley and James Foster were unable to kick on when well set.
“Once again we have fallen at the quarter-final stage and that has to be a great disappointment , not just for me and the players, but for our supporters.”