By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS secured a second successive appearance in the Vitality Blast semi-finals on Thursday evening as they simply outclassed pre-tournament favourites Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston, consigning them to their record defeat in twenty-20 cricket of 104 runs. In sunny conditions it was a simply outstanding performance from the visitors with brilliant displays across the board; Ben McDermott setting the tone with the bat before James Fuller skittled the home batsmen with 4 wickets to secure the huge untroubled victory.
After electing to bat first on a friendly pitch Hampshire started slowly as they scored a total of 11 runs in the opening two overs before exploding into life; McDermott and Vince hitting multiple boundaries including two maximums as they added fifty runs in four overs to end the powerplay on 61-0. And this big partnership was extended to 93 from 54 balls with a combined boundary total of 14 between the two; the Australian passing his fifty and four hundred run mark in the Blast off Danny Briggs with his fourth maximum after just 28 balls.
Their partnership was broken in the tenth over with Bears captain Charles Brathwaite drawing Vince (31) into an edge that was caught behind by wicketkeeper Alex Davis, before McDermott dragged a yorker onto his stumps four balls later to depart for sixty-one. And a third wicket in ten balls arrived five minutes later as Tom Prest missed a reverse sweep to be trapped LBW, leaving the Hawks on 98-3 at the start of the eleventh over with Joe Weatherley and Ross Whitely at the crease looking to overcome a slight blip in their innings.
And the new batting pair did just that with a quickfire stand of sixty-nine runs from 40 balls, including some glorious boundaries as they scored seven fours alongside two maximums. But just as Weatherley (47) was approaching his fifty mark he was caught in the deep off Olly Stones, before Whiteley (24) was dismissed in similar fashion off Brathwaite making the score 171-5 just four balls later. Further tight death bowling led to a sixth wicket as Liam Dawson (2) was dismissed off the home captain as the visitors concluded on 186-6.
Birmingham Bears made the worst possible start as they lost their opening wicket in just the second over of batting, Nathan Ellis forcing the dangerous Paul Stirling (1) into a fatal miscue that flew to the grateful hands of Weatherley at slip. Brad Wheal followed this up with his first ball wicket that bowled Davis (6) to leave the hosts on 11-2 before removing Sam Hain for eleven after the batsman hit two fine fours in quick succession; Adam Hose becoming the fourth wicket to fall as he became Fuller’s first victim to leave the hosts on 40-4.
Chris Benjamin and Dan Mousley started to settle down the Bears’ innings with a thirteen run partnership in a two over spell of resistance, but failed to maintain the required rate needed to win and this saw the end of the former; Fuller drawing a loose shot that was caught by Mason Crane at deep cover to depart for 10 off eight balls. And two deliveries later the bowler removed Brathwaite to all but confirm Hampshire’s big victory after just nine overs; the home captain driving to Weatherley at second slip for his third catch to make it 56-6.
The score quickly became 67-8 as Mousley became Fuller’s fourth wicket as he misjudged a sweep and was caught by a rising fielder for nine from 14 balls, Crane joining the fun as his spin trapped Jake Lintott LBW in the twelve over for just two runs. And Ellis finished the game off with over six unused overs left as he first bowled Craig Miles for three, sealing the 104 run victory two balls later as Briggs edged behind to spark huge celebrations amongst the away contingent with hot temperatures now cooling and natural light fading.
Hampshire will travel to Edgbaston again in just nine days’ time following this fantastic victory, joining in-form Yorkshire in the semi finals with two matches left to play on Friday and Saturday evenings. But attentions will now turn back to red ball cricket following a ten day hiatus with second place Hampshire due to host mid-table Warwickshire. They will meet at the Ageas Bowl for the four day encounter on Monday with a start time of 11am; Hampshire hoping to recover from their recent defeat by twelve runs in Essex late last Tuesday.
PICTURED BY DAVID ROGERS: James Fuller celebrates one of four wickets in his bowling figures of 4-17.