By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS ended their winless streak in the Vitality Blast 2022 on their fifth attempt on Saturday night, beating the rain and Sussex Sharks in the so called ‘El Clasicoast’ derby at the Ageas Bowl. In truth it was a game that the hosts deserved to win as they batted first in a high scoring encounter, whilst their bowlers were able to control the run-rate with relative ease as they won by twenty-two runs; the margin of victory arguably being larger had Tom Seifert not hit a century for the Sharks in their innings.
After being asked to bat the Hampshire openers James Vince and Ben McDermott immediately set the tone; hitting the first fifty runs in the powerful as a first ball four from the captain signalled their attacking intent. With a combination of ground stroke play and the occasional maximum, both reached their half centuries with the latter’s outrageous shot in the eighth over voted the moment of the game by the sponsors. A century partnership was then reached as the pair put on 124 in less than twelve overs, breaking a club record in the process of hitting twelve fours and six maximums between them in a blistering start.
Just when the Hawks looked nailed on to score over two hundred runs, they were suddenly pegged back from 124-0 to 147-4 as they lost four wickets in the middle order with the visitors fighting back. Seamer Henry Crocombe took the first as he bowled Vince for 65 with an inswinging yorker and then also removed Tom Prest (9), with some world class fielding from the Sharks’ team furthermore dismissing the dangerous McDermott (60) and Whitely (3) as they looked to further damage the poor confidence of the hosts following their four successive defeats in the competition over the previous eight days.
Despite two further dismissals as Fuller was out for eight and Liam Dawson followed to the pavilion after hitting three boundaries for 14 runs, Hampshire accelerated their run rate with some brilliant work from Toby Albert. the youngster showed some inventive shots including three boundaries and a tactical technique in rotating the strike against the tiring bowlers; hitting twenty three as Hampshire reached 199-6 from their allocated twenty overs as the clouds rolled in and the floodlights began to take full effect.
In comparison to Hampshire’s fast paced start, the Sharks started slowly against some tight bowling with the new ball from Chris Wood and Nathan Ellis; hitting nineteen runs in 3.1 overs before the first wicket as big hitter Luke Wright edged to the lurking Fuller at mid-off. And it soon got worse the following over as Ali Orr misjudged a delivery from Scott Currie to sky the ball into the gloves of wicketkeeper McDermott, leaving with nine runs from six and meant that the visitors were struggling on 29-2 in the fifth over.
Seifert then began to regain control of the run chase with a series of fours just after the powerplay as the team reached fifty in the eighth over, but the opener was let down by laboured batting down the other end as he lost two batting partners; Flynn Hudson-Prentice (8) caught off Fuller and Dawson drawing a spinning edge to remove Ravi Bopara (5) as the Sharks reached 61-4 midway through the 11th over and facing a huge defeat. This slow-paced chase was then offered a spark as Delray Rawlins joined with Seifert at the crease, the latter hitting 32 off twenty-one balls including five boundaries before he was run out chasing a quick single by a brilliant piece of fielding with twenty-two deliveries left of their innings.
But even this seventy-run partnership in just under six overs didn’t change the tide as Hampshire took the sixth wicket moments after a twenty minute rain interruption, Ellis bowling Harrison Ward for two to leave the Sharks on 142-6 and needing 58 to win from 13 balls. And with the game lost Seifert went into damage limitation mode in a bid to improve net-run-rate, hitting three straight sixes in the final over alongside two fours to reach his century off just 56 deliveries; a fine innings that was all in vain as they finished on 177-6 and lost by twenty-two runs overall as the clock passed 10:30pm with home fans celebrating.
Hampshire have gained two points from this victory and have moved to eighth place in the South Group, leapfrogging Kent in the process. They will be hoping to spark this win into a solid streak of good form within the competition, starting with a trip to Middlesex on Tuesday afternoon that starts at 4.30pm in Radlett. The Hawks will then host Essex Eagles and travel to Glamorgan over two successive days (June 9 & 10), before their attentions must turn back to County Championship action with Yorkshire visiting the Ageas next Sunday (June 12) for a four day encounter as the division reaches its midway point.
PICTURED BY BBC SPORT: James Vince and Ben McDermott reach an important landmark in their huge partnership that set the platform for a comfortable victory on Saturday night.