By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET maintained their perfect start to the Royal London One-Day Cup group stages with their fourth successive victory in the 50-over competition, edging out Derbyshire to win by two wickets at the Incora County Ground on Friday. Again playing in warm conditions as a nationwide heatwave continues, the visitors were indebted to twenty-year old batters Fletcha Middleton and Toby Albert; both hitting over 50 runs apiece to help their side reach a tough-looking target to seal victory after an early top order batting collapse.
Derbyshire started well after being put into bat on a hybrid pitch as they reached 46-0 against the new ball including one big maximum before Hampshire took two wickets within the 13th over of bowling; Keith Barker trapping Luis Reece leg-before for fifteen and drawing an edge from Shan Masood who fell for a three ball duck. The score quickly became 58-4 in the eighteenth over as Harry Cane (33) was caught off Currie and Tom Wood (0) was removed by Josh Turner as the runs dried up following a strong start from the home side.
This cluster of wickets brought Brooke Guest and Anuj Dal to the crease against rejuvenated bowling despite hot temperatures; the pair settling in for a period before counter-attacking to help restore their earlier run rate with a flurry of boundaries. Guest brought up his half-century with the batsmen reaching the 100 partnership soon afterwards, Hampshire making their 1st breakthrough in twenty-overs as Dal was run out by Currie for 42. This prompted Guest and Alex Hughes to accelerate towards the 200 mark, adding forty-three in 5 overs.
With seven overs left Hampshire made another key breakthrough as Guest become Turner’s second wicket; edging a straight ball to Ben Brown behind the stumps. But despite two sixes this dismissal slowed the run-rate as the hosts only scored 44 from the final forty-one deliveries for the loss of three late wickets, the first coming as Mattie McKeirnan was run out chasing a quick single. The last six deliveries saw Jack Campbell remove Hughes (31) and Ben Aitchison (0) as the hosts were restricted to 246-9 from an allocated 50 overs.
In response Hampshire hit some early boundaries from the opening four overs before losing two big quickfire wickets during the fifth, Aitchison removing Aneurin Donald (4) and Prest (0) for a two ball duck to leave the batters struggling on 21-2. This worsened to 36-4 as the same bowler dismissed Gubbins (18) smashing his stumps and sent Brown back to the pavilion 12 balls later for three, whilst Felix Organ holed out from Reece after a 32 run partnership for the fifth wicket as Albert joined Middleton at the crease now stranded on 68-5.
Needing over five runs an over to win against tight bowling, the youngsters focused on reaching the smaller targets in an impressively calmer, well calculated performance showing experience beyond their tender age. First reaching 100 runs the pair accelerated with a small influx of boundaries as they saw off big challenges of seven bowlers who began to lose their rhythm under pressure; Middleton reaching his 1st half century and progressing to 64 runs as the pair passed their 100 run partnership from a total of eighteen productive overs.
Creeping ahead of the required run rate Hampshire lost their sixth and seventh wickets in 5 overs, Middleton being dismissed by McKiernan and Dal bowling Barker (15) after two boundaries. But Albert (84*) alongside his new partner Currie went on the attack with the former exceeding his half century; the former joining with two quick maximums before being dismissed off Nick Potts for 24 off twenty deliveries. However the visitors defied a nervous finale to seal the two wicket victory at the start of over 49 through Turner’s (6*) flicked drive.
Another two points mean Hampshire have leapfrogged Lancashire into first place in Group B at the mid-way stage, both teams unbeaten with the only difference being a weather related ‘no-result’ at the start of August. The two sides will now face each other in the next game on Sunday with an 11am start time at a hot Ageas Bowl, before Hampshire travel to Neath to play Glamorgan in their sixth game. Two further matches against Essex and Yorkshire complete the group stages by August 23 before the quarter final and knockout stages.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET (GETTY IMAGES): Youngsters star in narrow victory at Derbyshire for Hampshire, who rebuild from early batting collapse to seal narrow success and maintain a perfect start.