This is a special instalment of the ongoing Blast from the Past series, looking back at a memorable performance from the returning Daniel Sams. The Australian lit up Chelmsford with a blazing innings in a run-soaked 2022 encounter against Sussex.
Essex (244-7) beat Sussex (233-6) by 11 runs
The Cloud County Ground, 17th June 2022
Scorecard: View Here
Anticipation was high when Australian international Daniel Sams arrived for his debut county stint in 2022, with an expectant Chelmsford crowd keen to see how he would fare.
As it turned out, the past two years have seen the Essex faithful take Sams to their hearts, with the second of his two spells so far seeing him crowned Most Valuable Player for the entire 2023 Blast.
His talent was already never in doubt when he touched down in England prior to his debut away to Kent in May 2022, but just three weeks later, he proved his value in utterly conclusive fashion.
On a near-perfect evening weather-wise in mid-June 2022, the Eagles welcomed Sussex to The Cloud County Ground, though there were no niceties as the Sharks were put to the sword.
Essex totted up what was then their highest-ever score in the Blast on a belting pitch, driven by contributions from everyone, though none were as impressive as Sams’ 71 in just 24 balls.
In response, Sussex made a total that meant another Blast record was set for the then-highest match aggregate, though Sams was part of an Essex bowling attack that narrowly edged them out.
Such is Chelmsford’s supposed reputation for favouring chasing teams that Ravi Bopara, back on his old stomping ground, opted to invite Essex to bat after winning the toss, even in the glorious sunshine.
Having been afforded a golden opportunity to post a mammoth total, Adam Rossington and Feroze Khushi wasted no time in getting the Eagles off to a flier, posting a stand of 50 in just 27 balls.
Rossington and Michael Pepper both made quickfire totals of 35 off 21 and 36 from 18, respectively, before Khushi and Matt Critchley pushed the score to a very healthy 105-2 at halfway.
However, it was Sams’ arrival at the crease to partner Critchley in the 15th over, with the Eagles sitting pretty on 149-3, when the carnage really began.
Once the Australian got his eye in, there was no stopping the pyrotechnics in the final four overs, during which Essex added a mind-boggling 76 runs to their total.
Sams struck Tymal Mills for three sixes in the 17th, one of which was an outrageous ramp shot and another from was a waist-high no-ball, wrecking the Sussex quick’s figures as he took 29 off the over.
He followed it up with another gigantic six from a Finn full toss – though a legal one this time – before taking a huge 26 off the penultimate over from Henry Crocombe, which included two almighty sixes.
Sandwiched in between those two was a four that confirmed Sams’ 50 in just 17 balls, the joint-fourth-fastest in Blast history, as the crowd hailed his innings of just 18 minutes.
By the time Sams fell to Mills with two balls to go, departing with 12 boundaries to his name, the Eagles had already amassed a massive score even before Tom Westley capped things off with a quick two.
With Sussex staring down the barrel of that imposing target, Sams opened the bowling for the Eagles, and initially put Luke Wright under some pressure by limiting him to just five from his first over.
Wright cracked in the next over, caught by Feroze Khushi off Ben Allison, though Sussex managed to recover they kept themselves on track early on.
Ali Orr and overseas opener Mohammad Rizwan were the main architects, with both scoring at rapid rates and the latter in particular hitting 66 in just 32 balls to bring up the team 100 in the seventh over.
However, both fell around the halfway mark, with Orr pinned lbw by Simon Harmer for 38 off 18, and Aron Nijjar doing the same to Rizwan.
Bopara tried to continue the charge, but Critchley chipped away at the other end, seeing off Tom Alsop and Khan in consecutive balls to leave the Sharks five down and still needing 52 off 18.
The return of Sams to the attack would prove to be crucial, as he and Sam Cook combined to keep the runs low enough that Sussex would need an improbable 22 off the last over.
Bopara, with the experience of knowing Chelmsford like the back of his hand, hit back-to-back fours in the first two balls to bring it down to a more interesting 14 off four.
However, Sams struck the decisive blow from the third delivery, when the Sussex skipper over-exerted himself, swinging wildly at a wider one and feathering an outside edge through to Rossington for 51.
Just three more off the final three balls, including a well-executed slower ball to Harrison Ward that resulted in a swing and a miss from the final delivery, handed the Eagles a thrilling, high-octane win.
As the Essex squad saluted the sell-out crowd, it was clear they had a new shortest-format hero, and naturally, the younger members of it were keen to receive a memento from the man of the moment.
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Sams will be in Essex’s ranks for four explosive home Blast fixtures in 2024, including two Friday night clashes under the lights.
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