Hampshire suffer Leicestershire last ball heartache

By Connor Steel

LEICESTERSHIRE CRICKET completed their first “List A” trophy success in thirty-eight years on Saturday as they won a thrilling Metro Bank One Day Cup final held at Trent Bridge; beating Hampshire by just two runs in an engrossing end that went down to the last ball of action on a pitch that offered benefits for both teams under muggy and overcast skies.

But the champions did not make a good start after choosing to bat as they lost two fast wickets to leave them 9-2; Keith Barker dismissing Rishi Patel (1) and Sol Budinger (7). This soon became 19-4 with Colin Ackermann (6) caught off Ian Holland’s in-swinger and Wiaan Mulder further falling for a five ball duck; the batsman trapped LBW by Barker’s yorker.

Louis Kimber linked with Lewis Hill at the crease and the pair set about surviving the new ball period; moving this score to 56-4 before the former sliced behind off Scott Currie’s short ball for eighteen. Another partnership of 33 runs saw the batters approach the one hundred mark but Hampshire got the sixth wicket on 89-5; Currie creating a ‘nick’ off Hill (42).

Mammoth contributions were needed for Leicestershire if they wanted to overcome this dangerous position with nearly half their innings completed; Sam Evans and Harry Swindells providing just this partnership over a period of twenty-six overs. Both batters passed their half centuries as they steadily added 161 runs to set up a potentially competitive total.

This included some glorious drives and multiple boundaries but there was one further wicket to come with thirteen balls left to bowl; Evans holing out for sixty runs to become Currie’s third wicket on 240-7. But Swindells passed his majestic century in the final overs and finished 117 not out featuring three sixes; Leicestershire setting a target of 268 for victory.

Hampshire started their chase with relative control as Fletcha Middleton (15) and Nick Gubbins (20) moved them to 34-0 before both being dismissed; Mulder doing the damage with a ‘fuller’ ball and run out. And it could have worsened for the batsmen as another run out chance was squandered for Ben Brown; two legitimate LBW decisions going their way.

Youngster Tom Prest seemed unfazed as he smashed a huge maximum on the way to his half century; scoring 79 runs with Brown to boost Hampshire to 117-2 after twenty-four overs. But Leicestershire bounced back with three wickets for nineteen runs; Brown (33) and Aneurin Donald (6) falling to Chris Wright with Prest (51) offering a simple ‘return catch’.

Risks of a major batting collapse were halted by Liam Dawson and Joe Weatherley; the pair contributing a fifty nine run partnership in approximately fourteen overs to leave 73 to gain from sixty balls. This was sliced to just fifty off forty balls when Hampshire lost their 6th wicket to leave them 218-6; fielder Will Davis grabbing a pull shot from Weatherley (40).

Ian Holland added sixteen quick runs before he was dismissed to crank the pressures onto Hampshire, who needed 25 off the final three overs to win. Dawson (57) blasted a big six off Hull and hit multiple singles with Barker (11*) to cut the target down to 11 off two but they were unable to complete the win; the former dismissed by Hull to confirm a tight loss.

It means that Hampshire finish their 2023 cricket campaign with no silverware, having exited the T20 Vitality Blast at its semi-final stage and having no chance of winning the County Championship with two matches left to play. But they will have a say in the title race as the team travel to Essex from Tuesday before hosting Surrey in the final week of fixtures.

PICTURED BY ALAMY (2RW2JR7): Liam Dawson drives shot away in Hampshire’s chase; his side losing by two runs.