GARY Ballance set up Yorkshire with a Royal London Cup semi-final showdown against Hampshire on Monday courtesy of a match-winning innings that knocked the wind out of Essex’s sails.

The Vikings’ 259 for seven was underpinned by a fifth-wicket stand of 129 in 29 overs between Ballance, who hit an 113-ball 91 with seven fours and two sixes, and the comparatively pedestrian Jack Leaning, who managed 57 from 91 balls.

However, Yorkshire had been circumspect for much of their innings until Tim Bresnan and Matt Fisher thrashed around at a rate of 10 runs an over for the last seven to set Essex 260 to win. The pair threw caution to the wind, scoring off 24 consecutive balls before Bresnan departed for 41 off the last ball.

On a two-paced pitch, Jamie Porter took three for 25 in nine overs of top-class bowling. Matt Coles chipped in with two for 66, while Simon Harmer kept the Yorkshire batsmen in check with one for 45 from his 10.

That was nothing, though, compared to Yorkshire’s accurate attack, who bowled straight and were backed up by some nimble work in the field. Essex had set off needing 5.2 an over, but that had climbed to 146 required off the last 20 overs, with half the team back in the pavilion. The rate continued to rise and Essex finished 26 runs short with five balls left.

Captain Steven Patterson made sure Yorkshire head to Southampton next week with four wickets for 36 as Essex laboured under the floodlights in front of a stunned Chelmsford crowd. Only Adam Wheater, coming in at No6, offered any resistance with his fourth fifty in nine Royal London innings this season. Wheater was ninth out for 78 from 70 balls when he was bowled by Patterson.