Essex v Hampshire: Ravi Bopara leads hosts to thrilling win
|LV= County Championship Division Two, Colchester|
|Essex 285 & 136-8 beat Hampshire 246 & 171 by two wickets|
|Essex 21pts, Hampshire 4pts|
Ravi Bopara led Essex to a dramatic two-wicket win over Hampshire to keep their promotion hopes alive.
Hampshire resumed day four on 83-1, 44 ahead, but Greg Smith (4-46) and Jesse Ryder (3-31) ripped through the order to bowl them out for 171 - opener Michael Carberry top scoring with 56.
Essex needed 133 to win, but got off to a disastrous start, slipping to 29-4.
But Bopara (48 not out) saw them home on 136-8, despite the efforts of Danny Briggs (4-61) and Liam Dawson (4-58).
Bopara was the glue in Essex's innings, after they looked likely to throw away a glorious opportunity to close the gap to 18 points on second-placed Hampshire - who slipped 22 points off the pace of leaders Worcestershire after their win against Leicestershire.
The 29-year-old limited overs international struggled to keep partners, with the spinners finding the Colchester conditions favourable, and five batsmen unable to get out of single figures.
But Saj Mahmood, in his first Championship game of the season, came in at number 10 and hit two consecutive fours to guide his side to victory.
Essex head coach Paul Grayson:
"It was a superb victory against the odds. At the start of the day, our chances of winning were very slim indeed, but we bowled well to give ourselves a chance.
"Mind you, we did panic a bit in our quest, but in the end Ravi Bopara showed what a class player he is to see us home."
Hampshire head coach Jimmy Adams:
"It was a fantastic game of cricket, to get so close is bitterly disappointing from our perspective, but it was a really good game especially if you were an Essex supporter or a neutral.
"When we batted, we were probably 50 runs shy of what we needed."
BBC Radio Solent's Kevan James:
"From a Hampshire angle, having Essex chase 133 to win was always 30 to 40 runs light. Even with spinners Liam Dawson and Danny Briggs enjoying helpful conditions, it only need one batsman to get in and that would be it.
"That batsman turned out to be Ravi Bopara.
"Hampshire did not bat well on the fourth morning, losing nine wickets for 75 runs, but defeat in a close game is still difficult to stomach."