Essex 244 for 7 (Sams 71) beat Sussex 233 for 6 (Rizwan 66, Bopara 51) by 11 runs
Sams hammered 71 from just 24 deliveries, including six sixes and as many fours, as Essex racked up 244 for 7 at Chelmsford after being put in to bat.
But it was not enough as he perished to Sams in the final over and Sussex fell just short on 233 for 6 – the match aggregate of 477 setting a Blast record.
Adam Rossington got the Eagles’ innings off to a brisk start, paddling the wayward Henry Crocombe for two boundaries and dispatching his former Middlesex team-mate Steven Finn back over his head for successive sixes.
The second of those blows raised the 50 partnership with Feroze Khushi (34) inside the fifth over – only for Rossington (35) to hole out to deep square leg on the very next delivery.
Michael Pepper took up the baton with a bustling 36, finding the fence regularly and sweeping Rashid Khan for six as the Afghanistan spinner’s first over in this year’s Blast disappeared for 17.
Rashid recovered to pick up the wicket of Paul Walter, who swung at a straight one and missed – but that heralded the arrival of Sams, who immediately proceeded to savage the Sussex bowling.
The Australian’s clean hitting ensured that one of Tymal Mills’ death overs cost 29 and he and Matt Critchley (34) put together a partnership of 51 from just 18 balls, with the last four overs of the innings yielding 76.
The visitors’ chances of overhauling Essex’s enormous total largely rested on a lightning start by Rizwan – and the Pakistan star, returning to the side after international duty, did his best to oblige.
Although Luke Wright departed early, pulling Ben Allison to midwicket, Rizwan and Ali Orr (38) accumulated a stand of 87 from 31, with the latter slamming Allison for a trio of sixes in one over.
Rizwan registered five maximums of his own, including a ruthless swat off Sams that flew out of the ground and, despite pulling up in pain just short of his half-century and limping from then on, he kept Sussex up with the required rate.
Aron Nijjar claimed the prized scalp of Rizwan with his second ball, deceiving him with the flight to win a leg-before appeal – but Tom Alsop (45) and Bopara maintained the chase with a partnership of 69 from 31.
However, once Critchley had Alsop and Rashid caught on the boundary in successive balls, even Bopara’s heroics were not quite enough to prevent Sussex’s fourth straight defeat.