David Wiese struck his highest-ever List A score to pull Sussex out of a hole but they could not complete the miraculous recovery from 103 for five, losing to Hampshire by nine runs in a heart-stopping finish.
Sussex were in the most dire straits when Wiese strode to the crease, four down and needing a seemingly mammoth 282 for victory. His innings of 171, the club’s highest in List A cricket, eventually proved to be money for nothing as he and Ben Brown’s heroics could not save Sussex from defeat.
Wiese looked positive from the off, stroking a six over cover to escape the teens. What began as a hindrance to Hampshire’s presumed victory and limiting their net-run-rate swing soon became a genuine problem for Sam Northeast, captaining his county for the first time in James Vince’s absence. Wiese raced from 50 to 100 in just 27 balls, taking just eight singles in that time.
Partnered by skipper Brown, who made 64 in what became Sussex’s highest sixth-wicket partnership of 232, Wiese continued pulling apart Hampshire. With 40 needed from four overs, he carted Gareth Berg for consecutive sixes over midwicket and long on.
With 21 needed from 18 balls, Mason Crane broke the partnership with Brown reverse sweeping to point, leaving Sussex needing 19 from two overs.
Wiese crashed Abbott down the ground before finding Crane at long on a ball later, and when Danny Briggs was caught Sussex needed ten from the last over. But Crane had Will Beer and Mir Hamza stumped in consecutive balls to complete the most remarkable climax.
Earlier, Hampshire had batted brilliantly to reach 355, their fifth highest List A total and their highest against Sussex. On a slow wicket, Tom Alsop paced his innings perfectly for his second century of the season and was assisted by Aiden Markram’s quickfire hundred.
Alsop hit a century against Glamorgan two weeks ago but had two ducks in his last three games. His scrambled single to get off the mark hinted at a man desperate for some form. He duly got that, chanceless on his way to three figures.
There was an elegance to his knock, emphasising timing and finesse. His opening partner, Donald, bludgeoned 41 but Alsop was not fazed. He drove handsomely straight down the ground and comfortably found runs square of the wicket too.
Together with Markram, he added 184 as Hampshire took control of the middle overs. As Alsop compiled his 116-ball century, Markram went about dismantling Sussex more quickly, hitting three sumptuous boundaries from a George Garton over.
The South African is leaving on Monday but continued proving himself to be a shrewd acquisition. His innings was hardly risk-free, dropped on 27, but he played beautifully all around the ground, including a pair of sixes into-out over cover.
Sussex hardly helped themselves with some lackadaisical fielding; several balls went through fielders like they were not there. Danny Briggs, formerly of this region, had Alsop caught and Markram was bowled by Mir Hamza to prevent Hampshire getting more than 355-5.
The victory could yet prevent Hampshire some real logistical headaches. They are now all but assured to reach the knockout phase, albeit with one final game against high-flying Somerset to come, and will secure a home semi-final should they win that.
But should Hampshire lose and finish second, The Ageas Bowl would not be able to host a play-off match on Friday 10th May, with England playing Pakistan in an ODI a day later. A semi-final the following day could be played, but Sussex and Somerset play their final games on Tuesday so nothing will be confirmed until then. Hampshire are without an alternative ground — the Isle of Wight unlikely to be an option, despite the ground being ready, with suggestion raised that they might have to play away.