T20 specialists Hampshire got another campaign off to a winning start as they maintained their dominance over Essex with a comfortable 17-run victory at the Ageas Bowl. A solid all round performance from the twice champions laid a platform down to suggest they are going to be tough to beat in this campaign too.
In front of a healthy crowd which greeted the opening night of the frenetic and fun tournament, Hampshire were soon entertaining their public. After Michael Carberry and James Vince put down a solid foundation, former captain Jimmy Adams propelled proceedings with some lusty blows and some clever placement as Hampshire go in search of a sixth successive appearance at Finals Day.
Adams came to the wicket after Carberry holed out in the deep with the score on 63 approaching the end of the ninth over and, with good support from Vince and then former Essex star Owais Shah, he smashed his way to 50 from just 22 balls in an innings that included five fours and two big sixes.
Adams remained unbeaten at the end on 55 and guided his side from 74/1 after 10 overs to 173/4 at the end of the innings to put Hampshire firmly in the box seat despite four very quick overs from Shaun Tait, which the Aussie took 1/39 from.
With Essex missing Tom Westley with injury and Ravi Bopara to the IPL they needed their big players to stand up and be counted if they were to get anywhere near the imposing total they were set, but their trump card – Jesse Ryder – was castled in Chris Wood’s first over for just one and you felt the Eagles were always up against it from there.
Things got even harder in the third over of the innings when the first ball of a very quick spell from Fidel Edwards was way too good for Nick Browne. Greg Smith and Kishen Velani briefly threatened a counter attack with some big hitting that saw them put on 39 in four overs but the visitors were unable to establish that sizable partnership they needed to get them close. Essex were level with Hampshire in terms of runs at the halfway stage but a regular flow of wickets ensured Hampshire were to always have the Eagles at arms length.
In the end Hampshire’s experienced and high quality bowling attack were able to defend their total with a little more comfort than the eventual scoreline suggests. Essex’s only chance was with their captain, Ryan ten Doeschate, and the Dutch international showed all his class with a defiant 68 from 44 balls. But when Yasir Arafat bowled him in the final over the game was finally up for Essex. Arafat picked up his third wicket with the very next ball when he bowled Tait to ensure a 17-run win for the hosts.
With a batting line up that clearly knows the roles each man has and a bowling attack experienced and good under pressure Hampshire already have the look of a side set for another big season in the shortest format of the game. With players such as Gareth Berg and Liam Dawson on the sidelines they have a couple of injuries covered too.
Essex shouldn’t go away too disappointed. Hampshire are a tough nut to crack at the Ageas Bowl with a full strength side let alone one missing the likes of Bopara, Westley and Reece Topley who isn’t yet fit for matches in successive days. They fought hard and showed good fighting spirit led by their gun player Ryan ten Doeschate but in the end this was Hampshire’s night.
Man of the Match – Jimmy Adams (Hampshire): Adams missed the Championship match last week as his wife was expecting their child but he made up for lost time with one of his best T20 innings. Hampshire had a solid start without it being spectacular but it was Adams who grabbed hold of the innings and dragged it up to a total that always looked beyond Essex. Hampshire’s 17 run margin was very much assisted by the brilliance of their skipper.