By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS warmed up for their upcoming Vitality Blast quarter-final clash with another victory in the short-form cricket competition, beating Sussex Sharks by five wickets in a fairly one-sided ‘el-clasicoast’ derby encounter at Hove on Sunday evening. And the comfortable victory was highly deserved for the away side on a lovely sunny evening as they continued their fine run of nine wins in ten games; also finishing the group stages in style with notable individual performances from those with bat and ball.
Choosing to field first seemed a good decision for Hampshire as they took the 1st wicket in the second over; Brad Wheal drawing the prolific Ali Orr into a poor shot that was easily caught at mid-off by James Vince. And five balls later the Sharks lost their second batsman as Josh Phillipe played onto his own stumps from Chris Wood’s yorker delivery; Tom Haines and Harrison Ward putting together a solid partnership to push their side towards 49-2 at the end of the powerplay with multiple boundaries scored by the pair.
But just as the batsman were looking good, Prest removed Ward (16) in the seventh over and this was followed quickly by another dismissal to leave the hosts struggling on 56-4; Haines (27) stumped by Ben McDermott as he tried to attack the leg spin of Mason Crane. These two wickets brought Ravi Bopara and Delray Rawlins to the crease, showing no mercy in the middle overs with two sixes apiece to push Sussex past the hundred mark; the latter becoming the fifth wicket as he was trapped LBW by Crane for 29.
Bopara (35) was soon dismissed before drinks as he was caught off Fuller either side of big hitting from George Garton; the batsman hitting thirty seven in just under three overs including 3 fours and maximums apiece. And although he was dismissed with nine balls left to make the score 157-7 as Will Beer (1) fell to Wheal for the eighth wicket; Rashid Khan smashed an unorthodox 25 off twelve including 2 sixes to help Sussex to a competitive score of 180-8 off their allocated twenty overs.
In response Hampshire started brilliantly as McDermott and Vince showed their class at the top of the order; hitting sixty four unbeaten runs in the powerplay with one six and multiple shots for fours against the new ball. Scoring an average of ten an over off the seamers in the early stages, this partnership was further extended to 86-0 in the ninth before the Hawks lost their 1st wicket of the night; Bopara trapping the Australian opener LBW for thirty off 25 balls as Prest entered the flattening crease at number three.
Vince continued to hit fours as he reached another individual half-century and beyond, Prest adding one six as the pair comfortably passed the 100 mark with just the one wicket. But similarly to the Sussex innings, both batsmen were dismissed within a two over spell in the middle stages as the run rate; Vince (65) being caught off Rawlins and Prest (19) soon fell LBW to Rashid’s spinning delivery off 14 balls. Two further wickets fell with the required run-rate increasing as Toby Albert (3) was bowled by Rashid and Weatherley (14) became Bopara’s second wicket to leave the scores on 144-5 halfway through the 17th over.
Needing thirty nine runs from the last three overs, Hampshire were helped by a series of wides and no-balls as the pressure built on the out-of-form Sussex bowlers as Fuller and Ross Whitely were at the crease. The eighteenth over went for twenty runs as the latter hit one huge maximums and ran quick singles through the stumps; Fuller hitting another two boundaries in the second to last over as the visitors pushed for victory. This was secured with five balls left with Fuller smashing Beer’s leg spin to the ropes, sparking a loud cheer from the small away contingent as the Hawks celebrated their 9th win.
Reaching the quarter-finals is a fantastic achievement for the Hawks, particularly when considering their appalling start with four successive defeats back in late May and early June. James Vince’s side finished 4th in the south group behind Essex Eagles, Somerset and Surrey with a positive net-run rate; their reward being a highly anticipated away clash with Birmingham Bears (Warwickshire). This game will be played at Edgbaston on Thursday evening with a 6:30pm start, the winners due to return to the ground on July 16 for final days including semi final / final clashes during a day of Vitality Blast action.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET: Sussex batsman walks off the pitch as away side celebrate wicket.