Yorkshire Vikings (259-7) beat Essex Eagles (234) by 25 runs at Chelmsford

GARY Ballance set up Yorkshire with a Royal London Cup semi-final showdown against Hampshire on Monday courtesy of a match-winning innings that knocked the wind out of Essex’s sails.

The Vikings’ 259 for seven was underpinned by a fifth-wicket stand of 129 in 29 overs between Ballance, who hit a 113-ball 91 with seven fours and two sixes, and the comparatively pedestrian Jack Leaning, who managed 57 from 91 balls.

However, Yorkshire had been circumspect for much of their innings until Tim Bresnan and Matt Fisher thrashed around at a rate of ten runs an over for the last seven to set Essex 260 to win.

The pair threw caution to the wind, scoring off 24 consecutive balls before Bresnan departed for 41 off the last ball.

On a two-paced pitch, Jamie Porter took three for 25 in nine overs of top-class bowling.

Matt Coles chipped in with two for 66, while Simon Harmer kept the Yorkshire batsmen in check with one for 45 from his ten.

That was nothing, though, compared to Yorkshire’s accurate attack, who bowled straight and were backed up by some nimble work in the field.

Essex had set off needing 5.2 an over but that had climbed to 146 required off the last 20 overs, with half the team back in the pavilion.

The rate continued to rise and Essex finished 26 runs short with five balls left.

Captain Steven Patterson made sure Yorkshire head to Southampton next week with four wickets for 36 as Essex laboured under the floodlights in front of a stunned Chelmsford crowd.

Only Adam Wheater, coming in at number six, offered any resistance with his fourth 50 in nine Royal London innings this season.

Wheater was ninth out for 78 from 70 balls when he was bowled by Patterson.

The tone for Essex’s response was set when Alastair Cook attempted to slog Ben Coad out of the ground, but only succeeded in sending up a steepler to mid-off which Patterson took a shoulder-height.

It was a far cry from when Porter and Coles had reduced Yorkshire to five for two in the second over and questioned the Vikings’ decision to bat.

Porter had Tom Kohler-Cadmore plumb in front to his first ball faced and Harry Brook tried to cut Coles but ended up playing on.

Alex Lyth and Ballance added 40 for the third wicket before Porter took two wickets in four balls, at which point he had three for 13 from six overs.

Lyth, on 21, upper-cut to Ashar Zaidi on the third-man boundary and Jonny Tattersall was lbw to one that didn’t get up as he expected.

Ballance received a match-defining life on 43 when Neil Wagner could not accept a caught-and-bowled chance low down.

The left-hander then required treatment two balls later after being hit on the helmet by a short-pitched ball that flew for four ‘leg’ byes and brought up the 50 stand with Leaning in 12 overs.

Ballance was again fortunate when he swept Coles uppishly towards fine leg where the ball bounced just in front of Cook.

His fifth four, an off-drive off Bopara, took him to a 75-ball half-century.

Apart from two fours in Wagner’s first over, Leaning was very much the sleeping partner.

Even so, the partnership reached three-figures in 23 overs, though the tempo didn’t increase appreciably above four-and-a-half an over until Ballance took two sixes in an over from the otherwise miserly Bopara.

The first was scooped over Wheater’s head before the second was pulled.

But Ballance departed shortly afterwards, swishing at Wagner and giving the catch behind.

Leaning’s innings, which included five fours, eventually ground to its conclusion when he was deceived by Harmer’s loopy delivery and was lbw.

Matt Fisher pressed the accelerator when he took a dozen off an over from Coles – the 45th of the innings – that went for 14 and carried Yorkshire past 200.

Tim Bresnan followed suit with a towering six over long leg in a seventh-wicket stand that plundered 50 in just six overs.

The pair took 15 off the penultimate over from Wagner and had put on a quickfire 71 before Bresnan threw his bat at the final ball from Coles, missed and was bowled.

Cook was quickly followed by Tom Westley, standing in as captain while Ryan ten Doeschate served the first of his two-match ban.

Westley went for two, run out as Coad deflected Chopra’s straight drive on the stumps at the non-striker’s end.

Chopra, having passed 500 runs in this season’s competition with 37 from 18 overs, then swept Karl Carver carelessly to Leaning just inside the boundary.

Dan Lawrence lasted 24 balls for his 15 before he was lbw to Patterson.

And when Bopara tried to force the pace he only managed to clip Patterson to a diving Brook at deep midwicket.

A measure of the speed of Essex’s response was that they only moved into three-figures in the 27th over, courtesy of Wheater’s ramp shot for four.

The wicketkeeper later twice deposited Bresnan for sixes.

He put on 34 in eight overs with Ashar Zaidi before Patterson bowled the left-hander around his legs to leave Essex dangling at 123 for six.

The end was in sight when Harmer gave Carver his second wicket by dragging on.

Coles wafted at Fisher, Wheater fell to Patterson and Wagner’s attempt at a ramp shot ended in him being bowled by Fisher.