ESSEX slumped to a seven wicket defeat at Lancashire in their Vitality Blast quarter-final clash at Old Trafford tonight.

The hosts blitzed a 162-run target to beat the Eagles by seven wickets with 26 balls remaining.

And Essex skipper Simon Harmer admitted Lancashire fully deserved the win.

“We knew we had to bowl well in order to defend that but hats off to Crofty (Steven Croft) and Dane (Vilas) because they were great knocks,” said Harmer.

“That’s what knockout games are about. You need people to put their hands up and they did it tonight.

“There are a lot of things you could pull apart.

“They were a lot of fuller with their slower balls and we were a touch short.

“They tended to sit up, allowing them access to different parts of the ground.

“We also lost wickets at crucial stages.

“It didn’t happen for us tonight and we were beaten by the better team.”

This game, which saw Essex make 161 for five on a slowish pitch, saw Lancashire’s Phil Salt, released late by England to play, face Essex’s Michael Pepper, who top-scored with 36 off 28.

Adam Rossington hit two fours and a six over long-on off Tom Hartley’s spin as 15 came off the third over to get Essex moving.

He was then brilliantly caught for 25 by a diving Tim David at deep midwicket off Luke Wood, leaving Essex 43 for one in the fifth.

Pepper was caught behind by Salt on nought, only to successfully review, before Matt Critchley was caught at cover off Danny Lamb.

The Wood-David combination struck again to remove Dan Lawrence for 15 as Essex fell to 84 for three in the 11th.

Pepper swept Hartley for six in the 13th over to take Essex beyond 100 before being stumped by Salt next ball to leave the visitors 101 for four.

Salt was at it again a couple of overs later, with some sharp work getting Tom Westley stumped off Luke Wells’ leg-spin. Lancashire were on top as their visitors fell to 112 for five in the 15th.

Essex went six overs without a boundary from the 10th to the 16th.

The Eagles were revived by an unbroken 49-run stand for the sixth wicket between Paul Walter and Dan Sams, who shared three sixes to push their side just beyond 160.

Walter finished 34 not out and Sams 25 as Lancashire’s trio of seamers – Tom Bailey, Lamb and Wood – went for 28 apiece. Wood was the pick with two wickets.

The Lightning response got off to an unfortunate start when, six balls in, Keaton Jennings was run out backing up without facing following a Sam Cook deflection.

But Salt and Croft were quickly into rhythm to turn the game decisively with a 73-run partnership inside eight overs.

Nineteen runs came off the third over, including back-to-back Croft sixes against Sams’ left-arm seam straight and over third.

By the time Croft, strong all around the wicket, reached his fourth fifty off 32 balls, the Lightning were 77 for one in the ninth over.

And, from then on, the result was never in doubt.