Batsman inspires Royals with ‘intelligent’ knock

Neil McKenzie, centre, was Hampshire's hero
Neil McKenzie, centre, was Hampshire's hero
Rhidian Chapman. Picture Ian Hargreaves (170744-1)

Crucial Dons win can inspire survival charge

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Neil McKenzie insists t20 is all about variety after guiding Hampshire to a fifth straight Friends Life t20 victory.

The Royals batsman oozed class and composure as he struck an unbeaten 89 to help Hampshire register a nine-run success over Gloucestershire last night.

But while his 53-ball knock included 11 fours and two sixes, it was a world away from the power hitting which tends to dominate the shortest form of the game.

Instead, he relied on a series of intricate glances, sweeps and paddles to accelerate his total against the Gladiators.

McKenzie said: ‘My back-lift doesn’t get up too high so I’m not going to smash it over the sightscreens too consistently – but I will try!

‘If there’s some pace in the wicket, I just try to play intelligent cricket.

‘To put it into golf terms, I don’t have the long game so I have to stay on the fairways and hit greens in regulation.

‘I’d like to hit a big ball but unfortunately I’m better in other areas.

‘It definitely shows there is variety in the t20 game but I’d like to come back as a biffer in my next lifetime!’

The Royals were in early trouble in their innings.

With just nine runs on the board, Michael Lumb (six) was run out after a mix-up with Jimmy Adams.

And then Muttiah Muralitharan totally bamboozled James Vince for a duck in the next over.

But that brought the assured McKenzie to the crease and he quickly had the scoreboard ticking along.

Adams (22) perished – as he attempted a reverse sweep – just after the pair had reached their 50 partnership to leave the score at 61 for three in the ninth over.

But McKenzie and the fit-again Sean Ervine stuck together for the next seven overs to take the score along to 117.

The Zimbabwean departed for 21, having picked out the fielder at long-on, and Dimi Mascarenhas was then pushed up the order to add some late impetus.

But it was McKenzie who remained the main source of runs, with a series of clever shots all around the ground.

Gloucestershire made a positive start to their reply and they were ahead at the 10-over mark.

But the Royals soon began to tighten their grip.

After dangerous duo Kevin O’Brien (22) and Hamish Marshall (33) were dismissed by Chris Wood and Dominic Cork respectively, Alex Gidman added some late fuel to the Gladiators.

But with three overs remaining – and the hosts requiring 34 to win – Cork trapped Will Gidman (four) to crank up the pressure.

Wood’s penultimate over accounted for Ed Young (seven) to leave the home side needing 17 off the last.

And Cork used all his experience with a succession of yorkers to steer his side home and celebrate by twirling his shirt above his head to the home fans who had been dishing out some stick.

Cork said: ‘Someone called me a 50-year-old and someone else suggested I should be ice skating but I don’t mind all that too much.

‘We got another win and we’ll be looking to follow it up against Somerset on Sunday.

‘In my mind, they lost that rather than us winning it but we will take it.’