Twenty20 Cup, Chelmsford:
Essex 192-9 (20 overs) bt Nhants 115-7 (18 overs) by 59 runs (D/L)
Napier delighted the crowd again with three sixes in 40 from 20 balls
Essex stormed into the Twenty20 Cup semi-finals as they hammered Northants, thanks to a fine all-round display from their man-of-the-moment, Graham Napier.
The hosts piled up 192-9 from their 20 overs, Ravi Bopara top-scoring with 47 and the in-form Napier bludgeoning 40 from 20 balls, including three sixes.
A flurry of rain left Northants needing 175 to win off 18 overs and Napier (4-10) helped reduce them to 11-4.
Captain Nicky Boje resisted with an unbeaten 58, but they lost by 59 runs.
Essex, who were Twenty20 Cup semi-finalists in 2006, will take their place in finals day at the Rose Bowl on 26 July.
They are also in the final of the Friends Provident Trophy.
"We got the runs on the board and we put in a great performance in the field too, we did a very good job," said Essex captain Mark Pettini.
Pettini won the toss and decided to bat at Chelmsford, preferring to put the visitors under pressure chasing a target under the floodlights.
They got off to a fine start with Pettini and Bopara rattling up 64 in the six overs of powerplay, with England star Bopara in particular playing some gorgeous cover drives.
Both were done by slow bowling, with Boje luring Bopara out of his crease in the seventh over and shortly after Pettini missing a sweep off Jason Brown.
Grant Flower struck 33 and James Foster 26 with Napier, who recently hit 16 sixes in an unbeaten 152 from 58 balls against Sussex, not coming in until the third wicket had fallen and with only five overs left.
He hit a glorious straight drive out of the ground and then hit another into the streets to bring up the fifty stand with Ryan ten Doeschate in 20 balls before he was caught on the long-on boundary in the final over, as Andrew Hall took two wickets in two balls.
Rain briefly delayed the Northants innings but they must have wished it had continued all night as they were soon in all sorts of trouble.
David Masters got rid of Rob White with his second ball and then in the second over, Napier struck to get rid of the dangerous Andrew Hall and David Sales.
In his next over he had Riki Wessels caught behind and then when Masters cleaned up Niall O'Brien, Northants were in a mess at 27-5.
Captain Boje at least managed to add some respectability to the scorecard with his half century and Lance Klusener (23) clubbed some boundaries, but it was too little, too late.
Klusener was caught in the deep off the last ball of the innings as Essex completed a comprehensive victory.