Reigning champions Birmingham Bears booked their place in another NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day after knocking out Essex Eagles in the quarter-finals for the second year running.
The Bears will be at the Finals Day at their own Edgbaston home on August 29 after beating the Eagles by 24 runs in front of 7,000 people on a cool, damp evening in Birmingham.
Put in, the Bears rallied after a sketchy start to make a meaty 189 for five with Laurie Evans striking 50 from 31 balls and Chris Woakes adding an unbeaten 48 from 23.
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Essex then mustered only 165 for six in reply as several batsmen made starts but none went on to play the match-shaping innings required.
While England captain Alastair Cook was not selected by Essex, his fellow Ashes hero Ian Bell was back for the Bears but made just seven before lifting Reece Topley to mid-off.
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Topley and David Masters pegged Birmingham back well early on. William Porterfield struck 23 from 16 balls but then sliced Shaun Tait's first ball to third man.
Varun Chopra'a laboured 24-ball 18 ended with a catch at extra cover and when Rikki Clarke lifted Ryan ten Doeschate to cover, the Bears were 88 for four and on the back foot.
But Essex took a blow when Graham Napier limped off having bowling only seven balls and added another self-inflicted one when Evans, on 14, was caught at point by Jesse Ryder only to be reprieved because Tait had overstepped.
Evans capitalised by thundering to 50 in a stand of 69 from 38 balls with Woakes, a late onslaught which ensured that Essex were left with a hefty target.
The Eagles soon lost Mark Pettini , caught at cover, and Ryder who clubbed 26 from 22 balls before lifting Boyd Rankin to mid-on.
They received an unexpected bonus from a rare off-day from Jeetan Patel, who went for 39 in his four overs, but Tom Westley (33 from 27 balls) and Ravi Bopara (32 from 27) both perished as they sought to address an escalating required rate, the latter bowled by Patel's final delivery.
The Eagles needed 69 from five overs, which became 66 from four after a superb over from Clarke. When he then held a fine catch at long on to dismiss Ten Doeschate in the next over, it was all over for the Eagles and the champions' defence of their trophy will continue into Finals Day.
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