Sussex Sharks won their final group game in the NatWest T20 blast when they beat Essex Eagles by 55 runs at Hove on Friday - but their convincing victory was still not enough to see them through to the quarter-finals of the competition as they were edged out of the tournament on net run rate.
The close-fought group ended with Somerset nicking fourth spot courtesy of a big win at Hampshire, their net run rate of 0.491 only very marginally better than Sussex's 0.423 with the teams equal on 14 points.
Sussex captain Ben Brown said: “We feel pretty deflated. We did all we could tonight and we will look back on other evenings for the reasons why we didn’t qualify. We had a couple of games we should really have won. We had a tight game against Kent here. And we lost to Middlesex at Lord’s at the death.
“We also had a lot of rain in he competition but we had the chance to qualify in our own hands and we didn’t take it.”
Essex never looked likely to get close to a target of 173 on the thrilling last night of the competition’s group stages.
Unlike Sussex earlier in the evening, their Essex innings got off to an awful start. Varun Chopra was out in the first over when he hit Danny Briggs to deep midwicket. And the wickets continued to fall.
Dan Lawrence was caught in the covers when he got a think edge to one from David Wiese and the bowler struck again in the same over when Ravi Bopara was well caught behind buy the diving Ben Brown to make it 33 for three in the fourth over.
It was 45 for four when James Foster was caught behind and Essex were in deep trouble at 49 for five in the eighth over when Will Beer had Ashar Zaidi caught at deep square-leg.
Everything now depended on Ryan ten Doeschate. But when he hit Beer high in the direction of cow corner Chris Jordan took an excellent running catch; 64 for six in the tenth.
After that even some late clouting from Paul Walter and Simon Harmer could not get the Eagles close.
When Sussex batted Chris Nash was once again their star, with an innings of 73 off 55 deliveries. It was his sixth half-century in the competition this year as he continued to turn around his disappointing early season form.
There were seven fours and two sixes in his innings which ended unluckily in the penultimate over when, playing a ramp shot off Mohammad Amir, he flicked a bail off his stumps with the stroke. He batted with a runner towards the end of his innings after pulling up in pain following a quick single.
Nash and Luke Wright put on 84 for the first wicket before Wright, attempting a straight six, was caught just inside the boundary by Ryan ten Doeschate for a 23-ball 37 in the ninth over.
The Sussex innings stumbled as they lost three wickets while scoring 18 runs off four overs. Sussex were without skipper Ross Taylor, who had returned home to New Zealand for family reasons. But Nash finally found the support he needed in Laurie Evans, who hit an astonishing six over midwicket off Jamie Porter on his way to 47 off 34 deliveries.