|Vitality Blast semi-final, Edgbaston:|
|Essex 160-5 (20 overs): Delport 55; Hughes 2-24, Reece 2-24|
|Derbyshire 126 (18.4 overs): Hughes 23; Harmer 4-19, Nijjar 3-26|
|Essex beat Derbyshire by 34 runs|
Essex will play Worcestershire in the T20 Blast final after the Eagles beat Derbyshire by 34 runs in Saturday’s second semi-final at Edgbaston.
Essex, who have reached the final for the first time in five attempts, had lost in the first semi on all their previous trips to Finals Day.
But, drawn to play in the second semi at last, they proved too good for Derbyshire, who were on their first visit to Finals Day.
After posting 160-5, Essex then bowled out Derbyshire for 126 to win by 34 runs.
Cameron Delport got Essex off to a flyer, hitting 55 off 31 balls as they raced to 78-0 off eight overs.
Alex Hughes made the breakthrough to get rid of Delport, caught by Luis Reece at long off. And it was local boy Hughes, who hails from just up the road in the Black Country, and Reece who then did most to put the brakes on, each finishing with 2-24.
Tom Westley lasted until the 14th over for his 39, while Ravi Bopara weighed in with 27 off 23 balls.
But it was still a less daunting total than had appeared likely – and a fired-up Reece set off like a runaway train, smashing 14 off Jamie Porter’s first three balls.
But after racing to 19, Reece took one gamble too many to the ninth ball of the innings and was brilliantly caught behind off a diving Adam Wheater.
Captain Billy Godleman then became the first of four victims for Simon Harmer, before fellow spinner Aron Nijjar, making only his second T20 appearance, got rid of Wayne Madsen for 17.
And, when Harmer dismissed Leus Du Ploy and Anil Dal in successive balls, at 66-5, there was no way back.
At one stage, they looked in danger of suffering the biggest-ever defeat on Finals Day – Surrey being bowled out for 92 to lose the final by 102 runs to Northamptonshire at Edgbaston in 2013.
But Hughes (23), Daryn Smit (19) and Logan Ven Beek (16 not out) at least got their side to a score of some respectability.