Bracey's hundred ensures Chelmsford win but not play off spot
7 May 2019
Gloucestershire did all they could to reach the knockout stages of the Royal London Cup by beating Essex by four wickets at Chelmsford in their final South Group fixture, only to be eliminated because of results elsewhere.
The prize of a tie against Worcestershire at New Road on Friday went to Somerset on net run rate after their win over Surrey, while Middlesex will be at home to Lancashire after they beat Kent.
Gloucestershire's victory over Essex - their fifth in the tournament - was achieved in the 49th over with an unbroken seventh wicket stand of 86 between James Bracey and Benny Howell, who batted with a runner after injuring a hamstring while fielding. Howell hit the winning blow to finish 30 not out, while Bracey's 113 not out was his first century in List A cricket.
Earlier in the day Essex, who won the toss and decided to bat, made 293 all out with Varun Chopra contributing almost half the total with 156, his third hundred in the tournament.
Watch James Bracey's thoughts after the win here:
Gloucestershire named the same side that beat Sussex at Eastbourne on Sunday, and started briskly as David Payne found Chopra was quickly onto anything loose outside off stump. The placid nature of the pitch had skipper Chris Dent soon posting a short mid wicket and short cover but there looked little sign of a breakthrough until Graeme van Buuren was involved in the first of two run outs, Chopra calling Alistair Cook for a single only for the former England captain to be short of his ground at the bowlers end.
By the time Higgins and van Buuren combined to run out Tom Westley as he attempted a third run Essex, and Chopra in particular, were well on their way, and Howell was off the field leaving Gloucestershire one short in their bowling options.
Chopra twice swept van Buuren for four on his way to a half century from 70 balls, and there were plenty of singles around in the middle overs, particularly square of the wicket. Surprisingly, it was James Bracey who was the first bowler to take a wicket, Dan Lawrence clipping straight to Dent at cover. It was Bracey's first wicket in a first team match, and when Tom Smith bowled Bopara through the gate in the next over Essex were 150 for 4 and their total looked to increasingly hinge on Chopra batting through.
This he did, only being dismissed in the 49th over for 156, although on 112 Gloucestershire asked about a "catch" taken by Miles Hammondat point, only for it to be adjudged a bump ball. Chopra's pacing of the innings built the Essex score despite the steady loss of partners at the other end once a fifth wicket stand of 87 with Rishi Patel (26) was split by Gareth Roderick's catch off Matt Taylor's slower ball.
Chopra's hundred took 129 balls, and he went from 100-150 in only 34 deliveries, striking David Payne for his only two sixes in the 47th over before Miles Hammond held a good catch in the deep. Payne and Ryan Higgins finished with two wickets each, and a target of 294 called for a well constructed chase.
The start was quick enough during the powerplay - helped by three untidy overs from Matt Coles - only for Essex captain Simon Harmer to bring himself on and lure Miles Hammond forward, wicketkeeper Robbie White gathering the thinnest of edges. Beard bowled Gareth Roderick soon afterwards and when James Bracey walked to the middle Gloucestershire were 62-2 and in need of the young left hander to stay with his captain for some considerable time.
Bracey's first boundary didn't come until the 20th over, but head coach Richard Dawson confirmed afterwards that he didn't sense any panic, more a calm methodical approach against seven different Essex bowlers. Bracey was caught by Harmer when on 33, but the delivery was a free hit after a no ball, and with skipper Dent going to his half century from 67 balls Gloucestershire reached half way fractionally ahead on the clock.
As usual when he scores heavily, Dent's productive areas were generally square of the wicket, and he and Bracey had added 117 when his highest innings of the tournament (89) was ended by a firm back footed pull to Harmer off Westley.
Briefly Essex were on top as van Buuren, Jack Taylor and Higgins departed for the addition of only 29 runs but with Bracey entrenched, Benny Howell walked to the wicket alongside runner Miles Hammond with 86 still needed from the last 9.5 overs.
Two boundaries by Howell off Westley gave the pair a start, and Bracey struck sixes off Porter, Coles and Bopara to complete a well constructed hundred from 86 balls and take Gloucestershire to the brink of a victory sealed by Howell's powerful pull to mid wicket, also off Coles. It had been a spirited effort to win the game and finish the South Group on 10 points, only for the margin of the results across the eight matches to end any further interest until next season.