HAMPSHIRE Cricket returned to action following a two-week hiatus as they beat title holders Nottinghamshire in a thrilling Twenty-20 blast encounter, winning by two runs at Trent Bridge to qualify for Finals Day to be played at Edgbaston on September 18.
It capped a remarkable comeback for the Hawks in front of 14,000 supporters, breaking the record for a domestic quarter final at the stadium that has seen their side dominate this short-form cricket over the last 15 years.
On a used surface after being asked to bat and having scraped through to the last eight of this competition, Hampshire started well as they reached 15-0 without loss although with a slow run-rate after three overs. But in their attempt to score more freely in the powerplay, the Hawks lost two wickets in five balls with D’Arcy Shot playing a frustrated shot to midwicket off Dane Paterson and England international top-edged to third man trying to hook away a delivery from spinner Samit Patel. These quick dismissals meant that Hampshire finished their six-over powerplay on 26-2.
The Hawks soon lost their third wicket in the eighth over to make the score 34-3 as Joe Weatherly miscued his effort to fine leg, thus giving Matthew Carter his first wicket of the match. It was soon 40-5 as the visitors lost two more wickets in straight Calvin Harrison delivery at the end of the ninth over. The first saw the ex-Hants leg-spinner bowl through the gate of Lewis McManus with the next delivery inducing a return catch with Liam Dawson quickly sent to the pavilion for a duck.
James Fuller survived the hat-trick ball with Hampshire seriously on the ropes, but the new batsman combined with Tom Prest to reduce the pressure. The two created a partnership of 49 runs off just six-and-a-half hours to push their side to 89-5, which included two sixes from Fuller before he fell to Carter for the bowler’s second wicket. It was then 100-7 as Prest was caught off a Paterson delivery scoring 44 runs, which included three fours and one six from 34 deliveries.
Fantastic death over bowling from Nottinghamshire bowlers saw the Hawks only add another 25 runs from the final 21 deliveries, which included two further wickets for the home side. Firstly Dane Paterson got his third wicket as he dismissed Scott Currie LBW for just three runs, before Chris Wood was caught off the bowling of Luke Fletcher with four balls left to play. But the Hawks did see out all 20 overs, scoring a below par 125-9 and needing to bowl brilliantly to win the game against the tournament favourites.
Nottinghamshire came firing out of the blocks in response, racing to over 40 runs without loss by the fifth over, with Joe Clarke and Alex Hales milking runs off the opening bowling pair. The English international in particular looked dangerous as he scored an early six in a cameo of 19 off just 12 balls before he was caught off a Liam Dawson spin delivery. This left Nottinghamshire on 42-1 off four-and-a-half overs, still in real command of the tie with 84 required from just over 90 balls.
And there seemed to be no real concern when the home side, buoyed by home support, lost two wickets for just three runs to leave them on 68-3 in the ninth over. The first fell when Ben Duckett was run out in the eighth over by James Fuller, with the batsman swerving to avoid the bowler and not managing to return to his crease as the ball smashed into the stumps. Six balls later and Hundred star Tom Moores was sent back into the stands after he was trapped LBW by Mason Crane; which seemed to stop the ever-slouching Hampshire soldiers seen in previous overs. But in the minds of fans and TV viewers, it seemed the visitors had to quickly remove Clark from the crease to have even the slightest of chances.
But Hampshire did finally take the wicket of the dangerous opening batsman after a slow four-over spell only yielding 15 runs between the nineth and 13th overs as Clarke played a shot to gully into the hands of Fuller from a Liam Dawson delivery. This left the home side on 83-4 in the 13th over and still ahead of the run rate. But nobody expected the carnage that followed as the batmen were reduced to 109-9 with five wickets falling in four overs. Dawson took his third and final wicket of the game as Samit Patel was stumped trying to drive for six runs before Ben Slater was caught by Weatherley off a Chris Wood delivery scoring just three leaving the total on 88-6.
Before Nottinghamshire hit their 100-run mark three overs later, they lost another two wickets with Hawks bowler Scott Currie doing the damage. He firstly dismissed Calvin Harrison as he fired just short of the boundary, before sending captain Steven Mullaney back to the stands the very next ball, D’Arcy Short taking both catches. These two dismissals put Hampshire in control after a stunning turnaround, but Matthew Carter did threaten to unleash another twist with an unbeaten 23 off just 13 balls, hitting three sixes in his brilliant exhibition of big hitting.
But Carter simply ran out of partners as the Outlaws lost their final two wickets off the bowling of Brad Wheal to seal Hampshire’s victory. The fast bowler saw the back of Luke Fletcher as he splattered the batsman’s stumps before he was asked to bowl the final over, which started with Nottinghamshire needing three runs to win overall (or two to tie and win due to more boundaries). On the fourth ball of this deciding over Dane Paterson attempt to drive for four behind the stumps, but instead found wicketkeeper Lewis McManus who took a low catch to win the game for the Hawks. It sparked huge celebrations from the away contingent and furthermore silenced the giant home crowd who had watched a wonderful evening of cricket.
At the time of writing (Friday morning) Hampshire have joined both Somerset and Surrey on Finals Day in mid-September, with one tie yet to be decided later tonight. Once all four sides have been decided, ties will be arranged with a draw and these will be given a start time of 11am or 3pm on the day. The Edgbaston final will take place at 7pm, meaning fans can watch three whole games for the price of just a single ticket, with brilliant excitement planned.
But the Hampshire celebrations shouldn’t last too long as they restart their LV Insurance County Championship campaign on Bank Holiday Monday, hosting Yorkshire at the Ageas Bowl with an 11am start on all four days. This will be an interesting test against a side with many key players on England test duty, although Hants will be the favourites after recent form in the competition saw them progress to this stage and a shot of Bob Willis Trophy glory in early October.