Hampshire put clear water between themselves and the chasing pack as they extended their lead at the top of the Friends Life t20 South Group with a 35 run victory over South coast rivals Sussex at The Rose Bowl.
As it was last Friday, the Royals’ spin trio of Shahid Afridi, Imran Tahir and Danny Briggs led the way as Hampshire completely strangled their visitors’ run chase, skittling them for 91 having earlier made 126 themselves (Afridi top scoring with 29).
And the overseas t20 signing claimed Man of the Match for the second fixture in a row with bowling figures of 3-10 off three overs while Tahir (3-13 off four overs) ran him close for top honours – especially having recorded a double-wicket maiden to all-but secure victory for the home side.
The result means the defending champions have 14 points – two more than their closest rivals Sussex and Somerset – and could go another step towards qualifying for the quarter finals with a victory over the Kent Spitfires on Thursday.
The Royals won the toss and elected to bat first, aiming to lay down their marker early with an all-change opening pair of Afridi and Michael Lumb. And the gamble paid off as the duo put on 38 for the first wicket. Afridi, in particular, looked a different class, notching up his highest score for his new side as he got the crowd going with some big boundaries. His only mistake was to try too hard to put on a show as he chased one too many from Monty Panesar and was bowled. Nevertheless, 53-2 after the power play was an impressive start and Sussex, left with little option, took the pace off the ball, hoping to reduce the home side’s scoring options.
Jimmy Adams, stepping in to the No. 3 role, helped keep the score ticking. Teaming up with Neil McKenzie, the pair were able to craft another decent partnership, putting on 36 before Adams (26) was bowled swishing across the line of an Ollie Rayner ball.
Sussex began to turn the screws in the field holding the batsman to singles and forcing Hampshire to search for runs which resulted in McKenzie (20) being caught on the foot advancing up the wicket to Umar Gul; he was sharply given out lbw. Sean Ervine, having started encouragingly, also came unstuck trying to force more runs than were available in the tight field, caught for 22 off Gul who finished with figures of 4-0-24-2 in a strong spell.
At this point the game appeared to be swinging in the vistors’ favour as Hampshire struggled to find any more than singles being available. In the meantime, they lost Dimi Mascarenhas (5) and Dominic Cork (0) to leave a seemingly obtainable score of 127 to win.
But Mascarenhas and Cork responded in exactly the right way, opening the bowling and producing productive line and length in the opening exchanges. The first wicket fell Mascarenhas’ way as he was able to convince Chris Nash (16) to go after a slightly wider ball which found itself in the gloves of Pothas.
But at 51-1 at the end of the power-play, the game was in the balance as Cork turned to his talisman in Afridi and, in no time at all, he had his first wicket; Lou Vincent (11) attempting a reverse sweep and knocking it in the air to substitute fielder Benny Howell. A mere four balls later he had the crowd standing once again, rapping Luke Wright (24) on the pads for lbw.
Tahir was brought on from the other end and, likewise, delivered from as early as his very first ball as he forced Murray Goodwin (1) to snick one to Pothas. In three overs it had all started to go pear-shaped for Sussex as Afridi again struck in his next over, bowling Ben Brown (2) with his incredibly quick speared ball. The Sharks were stunned at 59-9, having lost four wickets in three overs.
Still the Royals would not let up, as Danny Briggs got in on the act, seeing off a reluctant-to-leave Ollie Rayner (3) lbw. But the match was truly out of reach for the visitors in the 13th over, when Tahir trapped Naved-ul-Hasan (4) plumb in front, running towards the crowd in a football style celebration, punching the Hampshire badge and pumping his fists, only to do it again two balls later as Gul (0) flopping one up in the air back to the bowler.
Cork came back at the Northern End to clean up the tail with two wickets in successive balls in the 18th over. With 13 balls to spare, the Royals were huddled in a victory celebration, saving themselves some game time ahead of Thursday nights’ clash against Kent, where they’ll be hoping to do the double (who could forget the five-over annihilation at Tunbridge Wells earlier in the year). Tickets for that match still remain and can be bought online by clicking here or on the gate at the Match-Day Ticket Office.
This article was done on behalf of Hampshire CCC