By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS bounced back from their big midweek loss against Somerset as they clinched an eight wicket victory over Middlesex on Friday evening; starting their Vitality Blast 2022 ‘title defence’ into motion on this second attempt with outstanding death bowling setting a platform for a captain’s innings by James Vince.
The hosts elected to bowl first under sunny skies at the Ageas Bowl and looked to be rueing their decision as the batters hit 21 runs in two overs; Nathan Ellis soon trapping Joe Cracknell (6) LBW five balls later. But this was the only wicket of the powerplay as Steven Eskinazi and Pieter Malan took full advantage of field tactics.
This batting pair moved the score to 66-2 before Eskinazi (31) was bowled by Mason Crane, who further saw the end of Max Holden (6) edging to slip. But Hampshire were unable to halt Malan from passing his fifty and the 100 mark overall; Ryan Higgins (27) adding a support role before he was caught off a Chris Wood yorker.
Malan continued his brutal assault with a fourth maximum to bring up the 150+ mark early in the seventeenth over; the visitors reaching 160-4 going into the last eighteen balls. Two deliveries later saw a turning point as James Fuller took the important wicket of Malan for eighty; John Simpson (2) further dismissed minutes later.
Middlesex attempted to resist the accurate death bowling and were punished as Ellis removed Luke Hollman (7) misplacing a hooked shot; leaving the score on 167-7. Remarkably they further lost their last 3 batters as Tom Helm and Nathan Fernandes were short of their crease; the innings ended on 171 all out with a ball left.
In response Hampshire started nervously as they only scored three runs against the first 9 deliveries; placed boundaries from Ben McDermott and Vince helping to confidently switch this momentum. From this point the Hawks controlled with the bat; McDermott hitting three fours off Helm as they reached 26-0 from three overs.
Vince added a maximum straight down the ground with the Middlesex bowlers struggling to contain the quick approach; both umpires and non-striking batters having to duck on multiple occasions. But apart from a great shout off Higgins, the openers survived the next six overs with relative ease and reached 86 runs in this time.
The Hawks captain passed his half century in the tenth over before McDermott became the first casualty; the Australian batsman dragging a ramp effort over cover but failed to clear a grateful fielder. But this wicket only pushed Hampshire forward with Tom Prest adding thirty runs from 17 balls including a wonderful drive for six.
Prest was their second batter to depart at the start of the seventeenth over when his middle stump was hit by Hollman; partner gaining a reprieve when he was caught and the wicket disallowed due to a no ball. And this allowed the captain to seal an easy looking win as he finished 88 not out alongside an unbeaten Weatherley.
By reaching their target with sixteen balls left Hampshire halved their negative net-run-rates following the big defeat at Somerset two days earlier; further moving them to fifth in the South Group. A longer 5-day gap now awaits the Hawks who will host Surrey on Wednesday, before travelling to Essex Eagles next Friday (02/06).
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET: Batter prepares to sweep a drive away as Hawks seal home victory over Middlesex in Friday’s match; the hosts using an away collapse as springboard for successful run chase.