By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS progressed into their third successive Vitality Blast ‘Finals Day’ as they thrashed Worcestershire Rapids on Friday evening; comfortably beating their Northern opponents by five wickets after a brilliant bowling display led by Nathan Ellis and John Turner under glorious summer conditions at the Ageas Bowl to secure a last four position.
It was a perfect start for Hampshire as they elected to field and took their opening wicket within four balls; Jack Haynes seeing his drive caught by bowler Chris Wood to depart without scoring. This was followed by the second dismissal just eight deliveries later when Turner splattered the stumps of Brett D’Oliveira (1) to leave the scores 10-2 after two overs.
Things worsened further for Worcestershire as Mitchell Santner (13) was caught at third slip off Wood after smashing a maximum, whilst Turner claimed the wicket of Adam Hose (0) in similar fashion. The visitors then limped to 29-4 in their powerplay before losing further batters; Fuller removing Kashif Ali for two and catching Ben Cox (8) off an Ellis delivery.
This flurry of wickets saw Ed Pollock (24*) and Usama Mir join together at the crease at 29-6; the pair slowly rebuilding with a seventy run partnership in nine middle overs. It included some eye-catching shots as Mir hit a huge maximum in the far stands and hit four finely struck cover boundaries alongside some quick running between the dry batting crease.
Worcestershire’s seventh wicket came in the seventeenth over when Mir looped a drive into the hands of Turner; giving Benny Howell his reward and making the score 99-7. And Ellis wrapped up this innings in rapid style with three wickets in four balls; first bowling Adam Finch, dismissing Dillon Pennington and finally trapping Pat Brown LBW for 100 all out.
The hosts began brightly as James Vince and Aneurin Donald added thirteen runs from the opening 6 deliveries before Worcestershire took a wicket; Finch drawing a poor shot from Donald as he departed for four. The opener had replaced Ben McDermott who was out with a back spasm; Tom Prest joining with his captain and preventing any early collapses.
After short spells of consolidation the runs began to flow for Hampshire with Vince getting fast singles; Prest seeing the gaps as he added three fours and a maximum to move to the twenties. But unfortunately they were sadly unable to add more as they both fell either side of the powerplay; Vince (19) dragging off Santner before Prest (25) skied up in the air.
Joe Weatherley and Liam Dawson were the new batsman in the eighth over with the visitors seeking more wickets; the bowlers showing patience as they closed all the gaps and leaked an one-a-ball fifteen before their halfway point. These pressures told as Dawson played a frustrated hook off Mir, the ball edging to the wicketkeeper and leaving scores 68-4.
Former Worcestershire player Ross Whitely (7*) came out to huge cheers and looked to guide Hampshire towards their target; the batsman playing a supporting role as Weatherley added twenty runs in a partnership of 27. And although the latter was out for twenty-five to leave Hampshire 96-5, Whitely and Fuller knocked off five more runs to seal this victory.
Hampshire will now play versus Essex Eagles in the ‘last four’ on July 15 as both teams start from 11am at Edgbaston; whilst Somerset are scheduled to face Surrey later that day. Winners from both matches will then contest the final that will be played that evening as the Hawks are looking to retain their T20 Blast title they won against Lancashire in 2022.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET: Batter flicks his drive away from crease as away wicketkeeper looks on under floodlights; the hosts winning by five wickets at the Ageas Bowl and set up semi-final next week against Essex Eagles