A rapid 74 from Hamish Marshall was not enough to save Gloucestershire from an eight-wicket defeat by Essex in the NatWest T20 Blast group match at Chelmsford.

The hosts elected to field after winning the toss and restricted Michael Klinger’s men to 162-6 from their 20 overs, the wily David Masters setting the tone with 2-17 from his four overs.

He removed openers Klinger and Alex Gidman in the first five overs to put Gloucestershire on the back foot and when Ian Cockbain departed to the first ball of the seventh over in was 45-3 Benny Howell helped Marshall double the score before falling for 19, but there was too little support for Hamish, whose runs came off just 47 balls, with 8 fours.

Cameron Herring hit a six and 2 fours in a spirited 23 not out, but the total did not prove enough.

Tom Smith and Howell picked up wickets in the first seven overs of the Essex reply, but the home side were always up with the required run rate.

In the end they reached the target with nine balls to spare, thanks to an unbroken third-wicket stand of 112 between Tom Westley (55 not out) and Ravi Bopara (66 not out).

Bopara blasted 6 sixes in his 39-ball innings as a Gloucestershire attack boosted by a fit-again David Payne and Graeme McCarter were unable to curb the scoring. Smith was the pick of the bowlers with 1-26 from his four overs.

Gloucestershire’s Director of Cricket John Bracewell was disappointed with the result and performance.

He said: “We are down to the bare bones of our squad because of injuries, but that is no excuse. We should have executed our skills better on that surface.

“Playing two spinners was a good option for us in the conditions and should have helped, but we haven’t performed as we can.

“The good thing is that we are very disappointed to lose games like this now, whereas last season we probably thought we weren’t good enough to win them.

“But we have to be more consistent and start stringing results together in T20 cricket.”

The defeat left Gloucestershire second from bottom of the South Division with three points. The top four qualify for the quarter-finals and Kent currently occupy fourth place with seven points.