T20 Blast: Birmingham Bears beat Essex Eagles to reach Finals Day
|NatWest T20 Blast, Edgbaston|
|Birmingham 189-5 (20 overs): Evans 50, Woakes 48 not out; Topley 2-36|
|Essex 165-6 (20 overs): Westley 33, Bopara 32; Woakes 1-22|
|Birmingham won by 24 runs|
Birmingham Bears moved into the T20 Blast semi-finals with a 24-run victory over Essex Eagles at Edgbaston.
Victory ensured the defending champions will appear at their home ground on Finals Day on Saturday, 29 August.
Birmingham recovered from a slow start to post 189-5, with Laurie Evans (50) and Chris Woakes (48no) accelerating towards the end of the 20 overs.
Essex managed 165-6 in reply, Tom Westley top-scoring with 33 off 27 balls and Ravi Bopara hitting 32.
The Bears are just two wins away from retaining their domestic T20 crown, having won the title for the first time in 2014.
England captain Alastair Cook was left out by Essex, but fellow Ashes winner Ian Bell was selected by the hosts, though he could only make seven before falling to left-armer Reece Topley (2-36).
Evans was granted some luck on his way to a half-century, first caught off a Shaun Tait no-ball when on 14 then dropped by Essex skipper Ryan ten Doeschate at cover, while all-rounder Woakes gave Birmingham's innings some late impetus with some clean hitting.
Cameos by Jesse Ryder (26), Westley and Bopara kept Essex in touch as they chased 190 to win, but their chances of victory disappeared once Bopara was bowled by off-spinner Jeetan Patel.
Birmingham Bears captain Varun Chopra told BBC WM 95.6: "The boys rocked up today and turned it on.
"We played well throughout the whole game against a good Essex side. Laurie Evans and Chris Woakes played brilliantly and that was a really good total on that wicket.
"The boys bowled brilliantly to defend it."
Essex seamer David Masters told BBC Essex: "We had a night where nothing went right. We dropped catches, had one taken off a no-ball and were sloppy in the field.
"Then Graham Napier could only bowl seven balls before suffering a recurrence of his calf injury.
"They shouldn't have got anywhere near 190. We weren't on the ball. We've got a few ageing players as well and it's hard to hide a few in the field."