GLAMORGAN sealed a place in their first List A final since 2013 with a thrilling Royal London Cup last-two victory over Essex by five wickets.

Joe Cooke was the star of the show for the Welsh side on a belting Sophia Gardens wicket as he took five for 61 with the ball and guided Glamorgan home by striking an unbeaten 66.

While England’s batsmen toiled against India at Lord’s, former Test captain Alastair Cook top scored with 68 from 66 balls as Essex posted an impressive first-innings total of 289 all out from 49.4 overs.

Glamorgan’s bowlers underperformed on the whole despite Cooke’s wickets although Michael Hogan and Andrew Salter were notable exceptions.

Hamish Rutherford (67) and Nick Selman (59) impressed for the Welsh side in reply, but the game was won by a stunning, unbeaten stand of 111 between Cooke and Tom Cullen (41 not out).

Glamorgan will now face either Durham or Surrey – who play their semi-final on Tuesday – at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

Glamorgan chose to insert Essex so the last thing they would have wanted was a century stand for the first wicket from away openers Josh Rymell and Cook.

Hogan continued his fine Royal London form with a dangerous early spell, but Essex weathered the storm and Cook gradually got on top.

He was helped by Glamorgan committing the ultimate crime of bowling too short and feeding Cook’s favoured cut shot although the 36-year-old also drove impressively off the front foot.

Cook went to 50 from 49 balls with 10 fours thanks to a trademark off-side drive. Essex’s 100 came up after just 19 overs before Nelson struck when Cook was stumped off a Steven Reingold wide.

It was a sharp bit of work by Glamorgan wicketkeeper Cullen.

Rymell had been more circumspect than Cook before he was caught off the bowling of Cooke for 44. Cooke also grabbed the wicket of Tom Westley, caught at short cover for a quickfire 31.

Hogan (one for 21) and Salter (one for 29) bowled impressively, but their fellow Glamorgan bowlers leaked too many runs both sides of the wicket. There were also 26 extras.

Paul Walter smashed James Weighell for six over long on in his 50 but was caught and bowled by Lukas Carey after he skied the ball into the air. Feroze Khushi also hit a maximum off Salter but went next ball as Cullen took a juggling catch. Essex’s total was still an imposing one.

Rutherford and Selman have had fine Royal London campaigns and Glamorgan’s openers made a solid start. New Zealander Rutherford even hit Ben Allison out of the ground.

Glamorgan raced to 67 without loss from just eight overs as Rutherford took 22 from one Allison over by smashing four straight fours and then a six. He went to 50 from just 29 balls.

Rutherford finally went for 67 from 44 balls when he skied Simon Harmer and Walter took the catch.

Glamorgan captain Kiran Carlson joined Selman and the pair kept the run rate ticking over. It took a smart low catch by Rymell to dismiss Carlson for 36. Billy Root immediately followed for just three.

Selman went to an excellent 50 but it looked like all Glamorgan’s hopes revolved around him.

So, when Reingold was cleaned up having a hack at Aron Nijjar and Westley got the key wicket of Selman caught behind, Essex moved into the driving seat.

Cullen and Cooke started slowly but they ran well between the wickets to leave Glamorgan needing 67 runs from the final 10 overs. It set-up an enthralling finale.

Cullen could have been run out and also smashed one ball which hit square leg umpire Ian Gould when a boundary looked certain.

But in the end, it mattered little as the outstanding Cooke went to a run-a-ball 50. When he and Cullen took Jack Plom’s 47th over for 16 runs, there was only ever going to be one winner.

Cooke won it with a six and punched the air in delight as a thrilling game came to a close. ENDS