T20 Blast: Birmingham Bears beat Essex to reach finals day
NatWest T20 Blast, Chelmsford
Birmingham Bears 197-2 (20 overs) beat Essex Eagles 178-5 (20 overs) by 19 runs
Birmingham Bears qualified for the T20 Blast finals day at their Edgbaston home with a 19-run win over Essex.
Varun Chopra's unbeaten 86 off 54 balls and 70 not out off 37 from Rikki Clarke in an unbroken Bears T20 record stand of 134 helped Birmingham post 197-2.
Ryan ten Doeschate struck four sixes in his 37-ball 61 not out to give Essex a glimmer of hope.
But they lost wickets at crucial times and ultimately fell well short on 178-5, as Boyd Rankin finished with 3-34.
It is the first time the Bears - playing under the name Birmingham rather than Warwickshire in this summer's T20 - have reached finals day since the inaugural competition in 2003, when they lost by nine wickets to Surrey in the final.
Close call for Birmingham
Birmingham Bears only qualified for the T20 Blast quarter-finals after they beat Leicestershire at Edgbaston in their final group game and Yorkshire lost at home to Nottinghamshire.
After being put into bat, William Porterfield (32) helped Chopra put on 61 for the first wicket before he was bowled by Ravi Bopara, who also removed Jonathon Webb three balls later to leave Birmingham 63-2.
But instead of stuttering, Chopra and Clarke proceeded to smash the Essex attack around Chelmsford as they put together the biggest T20 partnership in the county's history, beating the 119 Chopra shared with Darren Maddy against Worcestershire at New Road last summer.
They scored 124 off the final 10 overs, Chopra finishing with four sixes and six fours and Clarke hitting two sixes and eight boundaries.
Jesse Ryder got Essex's reply off to a flyer with two sixes in his 20 off nine balls, but although Mark Pettini (26), Tom Westley (13) and Bopara (24) made starts, they were unable to go on and give Ten Doeschate support.
Rankin pinned Westley leg before and bowled Pettini two balls later. And when Recordo Gordon had Bopara caught at deep square-leg by Laurie Evans, Essex were 102-4 with 6.2 overs left.
Clarke and Evans both dropped Ten Doeschate, who brought up his half-century off 30 balls, in the deep as he threw the bat.
But, with Essex needing 45 to win off the final two overs and 29 off the last six balls, even Ten Doeschate's big hitting was not enough as Warwickshire joined Surrey and Lancashire at finals day on Saturday, 23 August.
Warwickshire captain Varun Chopra: "It was a great day for us as a club.
"It's a very hard place to come and, after losing the toss, even harder but the guys stepped up and played exceptionally well for 40 overs and we deserved to win.
"When you look at the team Essex have got, they are a serious side, and their batters in particular, so it's a daunting place to come but our bowlers executed their skills particularly well."
Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate: "After we had played so well in the qualifying stages it is so disappointing to get a result like this.
"We have been outsmarted but we have to take it on the chin. We didn't get our skills right in our bowling and delivered more bad balls than they did."