Michael Klinger marked his return to Gloucestershire with a career-best 126 not out to lead his side to a 34 run win over Essex Eagles
Three days after stepping off the plane from Australia, the skipper took advantage of three dropped catches and a missed run out to put Essex to the sword in spectacular style.
His knock came off 68 balls and included seven fours and eight sixes – four of which came off the final over of the innings, bowled by Graham Napier, as Glos posted 199-4.
In reply, Essex were up against it after David Payne picked up two wickets in the second over of their innings. And they were undone at the end by a hat trick from spinner Tom Smith who finished with 5-39.
To watch a post-match interview with Michael Klinger click below.
Playing his first game back in Glos colours, Klinger’s unbeaten 126 was the highest T20 score by a Gloucestershire player and the fifth highest in English domestic T20 history.
It came after he Essex had won the toss and put the home side in.
And the innings came to life in the second over when Hamish Marshall hit three consecutive fours off David Masters.
With Marshall the aggressor and Klinger initially playing a supporting role, the pair reached 48 before the former was caught by Shaun Tait at short fine leg attempting a trademark flick off Reece Topley for 29 (from 16 balls).
Now partnered by Iam Cockbain, the pair made steady progress before the skipper experienced his first piece of fortune when he was caught at long on off a Tait no ball in the tenth over with the score on 81-1.
More luck was to follow in an eventful twelfth over when Klinger was dropped off successive deliveries from Topley. First Ryan Ten Doeschate spilt a simple chance at long off when the Glos captain was on 44 and the next ball Napier dropped a near identical chance at long on. Topley (2-28) was rewarded with the wicket of Cockbain for 24 to make it 106-2 but his luck didn’t last long as he again had Klinger dropped by Ten Doeschate in his next over.
Klinger could also have been run out in the 15th over but he made Essex pay for their errors , moving up through the gears with a display of increasing fluidity and clean striking.
Having brought his half century up off 40 balls, his next 50 came from just 21. The Big Bash League topscorer took particular liking to Napier (0-62) who he dispatched for six sixes in his final two overs.
Essex did take two more wickets as Tait (2-37) yorkers did for Peter Handscomb (7) and Chris Dent (7) but they couldn’t find a way to stop Klinger who finished on 126 not out.
Chasing 200 to win Essex were 10-2 in the second over as Payne had openers Mark Pettini and Jesse Ryder caught in front of the wicket.
Tom Westley and Ravi Bopara got their side back into the game with a partnership of 62 before Benny Howell had the England allrounder caught by James Fuller at long off for 24.
With the dangerous Ten Doeschate coming to the crease Glos knew there was still work to be done. But when Howell caught Westley off Smith in the twelfth over for an impressive 67 (off 40 balls) they looked to be in control at 113-4.
A wicket each for Smith and Jack Taylor reduced the visitors to 134-6 after 16. But the next over put the game back in the balance.
Having already gone for 16 in the over Fuller was removed from the attack by the umpires for a second no ball above waist height in the over. This left Dent to bowl the last ball – which went for six. Injury was added to insult when Klinger had to come off the field with cramp in the same over.
But any nerves were put to bed in the next over when Tom Smith bagged a hat-trick. Ten Doeschate (54) and Napier (2) were caught in the deep before the memorable feat was completed when David Masters was stumped by Geraint Jones.
Payne (3-24) wrapped things up in the next over as Glos made it two wins from three in this year’s NatWest T20 Blast.
Michael Klinger is sponsored by L&M Property Lettings