Captain Simon Harmer took only the third T20 hat-trick by an Essex bowler as they beat Sussex Sharks by 25 runs to make it two wins out of two in the Vitality Blast.
The 34-year-old off-spinner struck with his first three balls after coming on in the third over as Essex easily defended a target of 164.
It was Essex’s first hat-trick in the format since Shaun Tait against Nottinghamshire in 2013 and the first against Sussex since Dimitri Mascarenhas for Hampshire back in 2004.
With Bopara, opening in the absence of the injured Ali Orr, having picked out short-third off the fourth ball from Sam Cook, Sussex were 15 for 4 with their chase effectively over before it had begun.
James Coles (35), Tom Clark (31) and Ollie Carter (27) offered some resistance but Harmer returned to have Fynn Hudson-Prentice brilliantly caught one-handed by Tom Westley off a full-blooded reverse lap to claim the fourth four-wicket return of his T20 career.
The South African finished with 4 for 28 on a good night for Essex’s spinners with Matt Critchley (3 for 28) and Dan Lawrence (1 for 15) also picking up wickets as Sussex were dismissed for 138 with eight balls unused.
Earlier, Sussex seemed to have justified Bopara’s decision to field first against his former county, restricting Essex to 163 for 7 thanks to a disciplined performance by their seven-man attack.
Pakistan leg-spinner Shadab led the way with 3 for 28, all to catches in the mid-wicket region. Shadab had been unable to bowl on his debut in last Friday’s defeat to Somerset after colliding with team-mate Nathan McAndrew in the outfield and concussion protocols ruled him out of Sunday’s win over Surrey.
He made up for lost time here, picking up wickets off successive balls in his second over as Critchley top-edged a sweep to mid-wicket and Paul Walter flicked the next ball to Bopara. Shadab returned to remove Westley off another mis-timed leg-side swipe in his final over.
Essex were indebted to opener Feroze Khushi who held the innings together with 55 off 38 balls before he drove a slower ball from Tymal Mills to mid-off in the 13th over, having hit four fours and two sixes.
Lawrence, released from England’s Test squad to play this game and tomorrow night’s match against Hampshire in Chelmsford, looked in the mood when he drove his first ball onto the roof of the South Stand, but he mis-timed a pull off Mills who finished with 2 for 32 and mixed up his pace nicely.
Robin Das was dropped by Bopara on nine and ended up with an unbeaten 31, putting on 35 at the end with Harmer (21 not out). They were crucial runs by the Essex captain, but his major impact on proceedings was still to come.
Report provided by ECB Reporter's Network