Hampshire made it ten home Twenty20 wins in a row with a comfortable nine-run victory (on the Duckworth / Lewis method) over the Essex Eagles at The Rose Bowl.
It's a run that stretches back to the final group match of last season's competition, and it was made possible by another excellent innings from James Vince (55). having shared the majority of it with Sean Ervine (45) for an 85-run fourth wicket partnership, the innings proved the real difference between the two sides as Hampshire made an above-par (for a Rose Bowl wicket) 151-7 in their innings.
Hampered by a number of stops for rain, the Essex reply never really gained any momentum, finishing on 122-6 off the 17 overs they were given.
The result leaves the Royals four points clear and all but safely through to the quarter final stages of the competition. All that’s left to do is bag a top two spot and guarantee a home draw in that next round!
However, despite winning the toss and electing to bat first, things didn’t start well for the hosts as Michael Lumb was injured during the warm-up. And perhaps the last minute adjustment could account for the confusion in openers Jimmy Adams and Benny Howell, the former run-out in the first over for just 1 looking for an early single.
And things didn’t get much better as two more wickets fell inside the first six overs, leaving the Royals on 32-3. But that was when fortunes changed. Ervine joined Vince at the crease and, after nudging their way through the various changes in the Essex bowling, they were able to accelerate with a variety of shots, bringing up the Hampshire 50 after nine overs then the 100 after 14; Vince bringing up his half-ton in 46 balls.
The steely partnership was finally broken as Vince took one to the pads and was replaced by crowd-favourite Shahid Afridi, who entertained us all briefly before attempting a scoop shot that sent the ball skyward for an easy catch for Ravi Bopara. Ervine was not able to cash in his well earned chips at the crease having his stump knocked back on 45; Tim Southee striking to finish with figures of 3-30.
Dominic Cork & Dimi Mascarenhas looked to finish off the innings, before a slight bout of rain had the players heading to the ropes, only to be called back. Essex used the remaining balls to gather the wicket of Mascarenhas (4) who was run-out on the second last ball of the innings. Hampshire setting Essex 152 for victory.
That light rain gave the pitch plenty of movement in the opening exchanges of the reply as Mascarenhas first had Adam Wheater (0) splicing one in the air to Vince, then having danger-man Southee (0) taking an edge to land low in the hands of wicket-keeper Michael Bates.
The youngster was in due to Nic Pothas’ absence following surgery for appendicitis but he quelled any concerns over the loss of the South African with an exemplary display behind the stumps, catching Mark Pettini (10) - again off Mascarenhas (in his second over) – and later excellently stumping Ravi Bopara off Shahid Afridi.
The Royals had responded in exactly the right way, piling the pressure on in the power-play overs, Mascarenhas finishing with superb figures of 3-20; the Eagles on 18-3 inside three overs!
The visitors recovered with balanced innings from Bopara (48) and Owais Shah (38), but with rain and revised targets coming into play, the Eagles’ measured cricket would be their undoing as, set 132 to win off 17 overs, they were left needing 22 off the final six balls – a target they never looked likely to hit.
Hampshire now travel to Surrey (Friday) and Sussex (Sunday) before rounding off their Friends Life t20 group stage with a final home match against Middlesex next Friday. The evening will be a Caribbean-themed affair with spectators offered the chance to win a holiday to Barbados (including flights and hotel) courtesy of Hampshire’s T20 shirt sponsor, the Barbados Tourism Authority and travel partner Virgin Atlantic.
This article was written for Hampshire CCC and can be found on the club website.