By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET bounced back into winning form as they hosted Essex in the Royal London One Day Cup, winning by three wickets on Sunday to return top of Group B; thus recovering from their trashing versus Glamorgan in Neath two days earlier. Contributions from everyone using bat and ball helped seal this narrow victory in overcast Southampton conditions to see the hosts leapfrog Lancashire as the top team, performing a well-measured chase of their target after restricting the visitors to a reasonable score on a slowing surface.
Essex made a blinding start after electing to bat as they reached 44-0 within six overs, but a bowling change shifted the moment as Hampshire took three quick wickets to leave them on 48-3. They came when Feroze Khushi (28) edged behind an inswinging ball from Jack Campbell, who soon took the wicket of Tom Westley for a duck; these two dismissals sandwiching that of Robin Das (20) sending a loose drive to third slip off Ian Holland in just the eighth over before Grant Roelofsen and Nick Browne led a brief-felt recovery with the bat.
The pair added thirty runs in 7 overs before Browne was caught off Scott Currie (12), whilst Luc Benkenstein (6) became the bowler’s second victim to leave Essex on 86-5. In reply to this cluster of big top order wickets Roelofsen and Aron Nijjar brought up the 100 mark with some good running before the former was caught off Jack Turner for 29; the latter leading a brief attack of boundaries. But his innings was short-lived as a yorker ball from Nick Gubbins pinned him leg-before for 21 off thirty-five as Essex limped to 134-7 after thirty overs.
Shane Snater was joined by Jamal Richards at the crease as they recovered well, the pair batting for a long period of nearly seventeen overs and added a partnership of ninety-six to help set up an above-par score. It was the former who led with many boundaries including a maximum to reach his half century before he was dismissed for an almost one-a-ball sixty four by Turner; Richards (31*) and Ben Allison (21*) dragging Essex to a final score of 257-8 off their allocated overs with the latter smashing two huge sixes over the boundaries.
Gubbins started the home response with fifteen runs before being dismissed caught at cover slip off Snater’s low delivery; Tom Prest linking with Brown at the crease with steady progress to bat out fifteen overs against the new ball. The pair added sixty-two runs in this period mostly featuring quick running to survive the batting powerplay and reaching 84-1 before a second wicket, Brown bowled by an inswinging Nijjar yorker for 24 off forty-two deliveries as Hampshire remained slightly behind the net run rate needed for victory after 19 overs.
Prest continued to be the anchor of the innings as he passed his fifty with a few well-hit boundaries, Aneurin Donald looking to further increase the run rate as he smashed two sixes in his 31 off forty balls in an eleven over partnership before he was run out off a direct throw to leave the score 138-3. And this did become 167-5 following a small partnership as Benkenstein had Fletcha Middleton (11) caught at mid-point; the same fast bowler ending Prest’s top-scoring effort of 76 as he nicked a delivery behind stumps gathered by the fielders.
Felix Organ and Toby Albert steadied the ship absorbing the pressure but needed to push their scoring rates with 78 needed from their final ten overs; something that both batsmen did in a brilliant partnership of 60 that included six boundaries alongside milking the field for ones and twos. But their great attacking was ended as Albert was removed for 34 and Organ soon followed for thirty with Snater taking both wickets to finish on 3-46, Holland (21*) and Scott Currie (5*) hitting the winning runs in the 49th over stroking into fine cover point.
This win sees Hampshire leapfrog Lancashire into the position of Group B leaders, needing to match the last Red Rose result in their final games of the round-robin stages on Tuesday to seal a home knock-out game at the Ageas Bowl; although it is not known if this will be a quarter or semi final match. Holland’s side are due to finish away against Yorkshire in Scarborough whilst Kent will play Lancashire at home as the Spitfires chase their own last eight position; which will be played on August 26 with all locations and exact timings unknown.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET (GETTY IMAGES): Tom Prest celebrates his half century as the sun shines at Ageas Bowl during brilliant home victory over Essex Eagles on Sunday afternoon to return to first.