By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS advanced their pursuits of the Vitality Blast quarter finals on Friday night with a record breaking T20 run chase against Essex Eagles in a four wicket victory; both teams blasting scores of over two hundred runs apiece in perfect batting conditions at the Ageas Bowl after it held a recent “Artic Monkeys” gig.
But it didn’t start well for the hosts after choosing to bowl first; Dan Lawrence and Feroze Khushi displaying a brilliant exhibition of boundaries to reach 73-0 from the powerplay. Both batters continued to pass their 50s in a fine 127-run partnership before their first wicket fell after ten overs; Lawrence falling to Liam Dawson’s ball.
Essex were undisturbed by this sudden dismissal with Martin Pepper (19) scoring three quick boundaries; an intriguing stand with Khushi (61) forcing the score past 150 after thirteen overs. But Hampshire didn’t give up and took two wickets in five balls; Benny Howell and John Turner claiming the batting pair to their huge relief.
The away scoring rates tightened with just thirteen runs scored before a fourth wicket arrived in the sixteenth over; Turner drawing an edge from Paul Walter (8) to be caught by James Vince. And this sparked another 2 wickets as Essex slipped to 172-6; Turner trapping Matthew Critchley LBW and Will Buttleman then followed.
A seventh and final wicket came to end the 17th over when Nathan Ellis pinned dangerman Simon Harmer in front, meaning Essex had lost six wickets for just twenty-nine runs from their ‘middle overs’. But Daniel Sams (30*) and Robin Das (11*) added a brisk unbeaten stand of twenty-six runs in eighteen balls to end on 209-7.
Ben McDermott and James Vince came out aggressively in the large chase of 210 against the new ball; both hitting boundaries before the former was caught for sixteen in the fourth over. This was not the only wicket of their powerplay as Tony Albert (14) fell off Sams’ inswinging delivery as Hampshire were 68-2 after six overs.
The hosts continued to lose regular wickets despite being ahead of their required run rate and this became a problem when Joe Weatherley (1) was trapped in front by Critchley. Ross Whitely soon followed for a duck to leave the score on 88-4; Vince reaching his fifty with a neat flicked boundary as Hampshire passed 100 runs.
James Fuller played a great supporting role alongside his captain as they made a crucial fifty-run partnership in response, which was ended when Vince (76) was caught trying to smash his fourth maximum over mid-off. This looked to turn the tide for Essex with the following over only leaking five runs; Critchley posing an issue.
Both Howell (34*) and Fuller overcame dropped catches to reaffirm the Hawks control of the chase in a sixty-three run stand from 138-5; the latter smashing three sixes to bring up his fifty. And although his own fun was ended for 57 runs; Dawson (10*) ramped a maximum to help Hampshire reach their target with four balls left.
Other results on Friday mean that Hampshire move to third in the South Group, but do remain level on points with Essex Eagles and Kent Spitfires going into the final two games of this stage. For the Hawks this will see two huge encounters from the Ageas Bowl against Glamorgan next Friday and then Gloucestershire (July 2).
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET: Ben McDermott and James Vince meet together to mark the end of an over in their massive run chase; a dejected looking Essex player slowly strolling away in the background.