Essex Premier breeze into the finals of the new Inter County Team Knockout Cup after victory in their regional qualifier, at the Regal Centre in Oxfordshire.
Newly elected Essex manager Adam Sultana brought back four former county players into the side with returns for Alan Jones, Dave Wooller, Chris Coates and Craig Burgess.
Surrey and Northampton got proceedings underway as they faced off in the first session, which saw Surrey defeat Northampton by 14 shots over the four rinks, to put them in the driving seat.
Essex then came up against former ICC group rivals Northampton after their surprising loss to Surrey.
Mo Bintead, Phil Banner, Alan Jones and Dave Wooller held the steady Northampton four at 10-10, on a tricky rink to keep the scores tight.
Sultana’s quartet – Del Coates, Linda Lambert, Mitchell Young had an up and down contest but just edged clear against tough backend opposition in Chris Hopkins and Lee Hall, with a 12-10 victory, to give Essex a two shot overall lead.
The Essex manager also gave a county premier debut to Greg Wade who joined Barry Hedges’ experienced rink with Peter Fautley and Chris Coates but lost narrowly 10-8 to Edward Sawbridges’ four.
The standout four of the session which was the difference between the sides was Babs Morokutti, Steve Killington, Anthony Fautley and Craig Burgess who strode to a 20-7 victory against a youthful Northants team.
Which secured the overall win for Essex by 13 shots, the two points and their place in the finals as Northampton had an early exit from the competition.
Essex then faced Surrey to decide the winner of the qualifier. Essex began slightly flat compared to the previous game but kicked on in the final quarter of the match as Coates (senior), Lambert, Young and Sultana finished first to open up an early nine shot lead with a 14-5 win.
Binstead, Banner, Jones and Wooller also found some fortune which turned into shots as they extended Essex’s advantage with a 13-7 victory.
Hedges’ quartet – Fautley (Senior), Racheal Cordy and Coates (Junior) continued the momentum with an 11-8 win, to almost guarantee the overall victory with an 18 shot lead.
The final rink to finish which took the sting out of their opening performance Morokutti, Killington, Fautley (Junior) and Burgess fell to a 13-7 loss, as Essex finished with an overall 12 shot victory.
Essex topped the qualifier with 4 points +25 shots, Surrey in second with 2 points +2 shots and Northampton in third with 0 points -27 shots.
Surrey will now join Essex in the final which will take place at the end of January with the other six counties from their regional qualifiers.
Mo Binstead, Phil Banner, Alan Jones, Dave Wooller – 8/10
Babs Morokutti, Steve Killington, Anthony Fautley, Craig Burgess – 7.5/10
Del Coates, Linda Lambert, Mitchell Young, Adam Sultana – 8.5/10
Peter Fautley, Greg Wade/Rachel Cordy, Chris Coates, Barry Hedges – 7/10