By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS avenged a crushing Vitality Blast defeat as they beat Essex Eagles on Thursday evening, winning by thirty-two runs on a gloomy night at the Ageas Bowl; extending their winning streak to three games following wins against Middlesex and Sussex Sharks. Not for the first time it was James Fuller who took the man-of-the-match performance as he took 4-30 from his allocated overs as bowling dominated on a tacky used surface under gloomy skies following earlier rain.
Despite inconsistent weather the game started on time with Hampshire winning the toss and deciding to bat, making a slow start and losing their first wicket in the third over as Ben McDermott (2) edged behind off the bowling of Ben Allison. This left the score on 11-1 with Tom Prest joining James Vince at the crease; the pair adding forty-nine runs in just six overs as the Hawks slowly but steadily passed the half century mark in a platform-setting partnership that survived the power-play without further loss.
And even when Prest was caught off Matthew Critchley for thirty runs, including four boundaries, it was Joe Weatherley’s turn to join Vince at the crease; the captain dominating the scoring with ones and twos as the pair reached the hundred mark the 14th over. To their credit Essex’s work in the field was superb throughout to limit the scoring and they got their reward as they took two quick wickets before drinks to end a 47-run partnership, Critchley’s bowling deceiving Vince who smacked the ball to point with Ross Whitely joining him in the pavilion as he was caught off a straight ball from Allison nine balls later for four.
Fuller came and went for two runs as Hampshire were left on 118-5 with four overs left, but a late run dash brought the hosts to a par score despite the dismissal of Weatherley (38) as he became Allison’s 3rd wicket of the innings. Helped by eight extras Toby Albert hit twenty-four runs off 12 balls as he dominated against the death bowling, pushing Hampshire to a reasonable 155-6 off their twenty overs with Liam Dawson contributing three off four balls to set the hosts an intriguing target.
Essex made a faster start in response although only one boundary was scored in an opening twenty-two run partnership, which was ended by Fuller as he destroyed the stumps of Feroze Khushi with a brilliant delivery to end the fourth over. And after restricting Adam Rossington (13) through a fine bowling spell Fuller got his man following a frustrated shot, whilst spinner Mason Crane dismissed Michael Pepper (14) with a caught and bowled to leave the visitors on 44-3 halfway through the eighth over.
Fuller claimed his third wicket following a slow-paced nineteen run partnership as he had Critchley caught at cover for 14, which brought a change of tactic from Essex with Paul Walter the next batter to the crease. He smashed two fours and a six alongside good running to add 27 off twenty-four balls, but was deceived under the floodlights by a spinning Dawson delivery that had him caught on the boundary. Shortly afterwards Simon Harmer (8) was Fuller’s final dismissal of the evening as he looped a shot back onto his stump to leave the visitors on 103-7 with three and a half overs left to play.
Although Harmer’s partner Tom Westley hit a six and four in quick succession, Chris Wood deceived him with a fine delivery that splattered his stumps on 19 runs; Nijjar following shortly afterwards as he edged into the hands of wicketkeeper McDermott off Brad Wheal’s swinging delivery. The bowler then saw off the short innings of Allison for a duck off two balls to leave the score on 120-9 as three wickets fell for four runs, before the experienced Wood sealed the victory by defeating Simon Cooks as he spun and the ball smashed loudly into the stumps with five balls left to leave Essex all out for 123.
Cheered on by a crowd including 2000 children who attended as part of a community initiative, the Ageas Bowl celebrated with the sounds of Sweet Caroline as the Hawks made it three in a row. After other results from Thursday they have risen to fifth in the South Group table with six points and an improved net-run rate, with the top four qualifying for the quarter-finals once all games have been completed. The Hawks’ next game will be played later this evening (Friday) as they travel the journey to South Wales, where they will play Glamorgan away at Sophia Gardens with an earlier 6:30pm start.
PICTURED BY MIKE HEWITT: Essex’s Sam Cook is clean bowled by Chris Wood to seal Hampshire’s win