ANOTHER inept batting display left Hampshire’s Natwest T20 Blast glory hopes looking increasingly distant as they were crushed by whipping boys Middlesex.
Chasing Middlesex’s total of 173 for six, the home side were bowled out for just 123 to complete a dismal 50-run defeat against a team who had managed just one victory in their 11 previous fixtures so far this season.
Although Hampshire are in second place in the table with two games remaining, the chasing pack are closing in fast for a spot in the top four.
And with Hampshire’s batting misfiring so badly once again, they just don’t look like winning games at the moment.
Although they had plenty of runs in the end, Middlesex should have threatened the 200-mark but then saw their innings falter.
Paul Stirling (64) was in brutal form, hammering seven fours and two sixes to guide his side to 94 for two from 10 overs.
The early flow of runs took Middlesex to 45 without loss and saw Danny Briggs drafted into the attack even before the end of the powerplay.
The move paid instant dividends as Dawid Malan (15) was stumped before Briggs then pouched a good running catch to dismiss Eoin Morgan (one) in the next over.
Ryan Higgins (31) then played his part in a 53-run partnership before Will Smith claimed his wicket, clattering the stumps as the batsman went for a huge swipe across the line.
But it was Stirling’s wicket that was the key dismissal as he was adjudged lbw to Matt Coles (two for 30) in the previous over.
The double loss killed the Middlesex momentum from 125 for four in the 14th over, stuttering to 150 for five by the end of the 18th over, although they did manage a late flurry to reach their final total.
At halfway, it looked a challenging target, especially with recent poor batting displays lingering in the mind.
And Hampshire looked in serious trouble once again just beyond the midway point in the innings as they were reduced to 79 for four.
James Vince (24) looked in good touch before he picked out the fielder to end the opening stand at 35, while Michael Carberry (16) followed him soon afterwards.
Jimmy Adams (20) departed in the 10th over as he was caught in the deep, while Will Smith (11) was trapped lbw in the next over.
That left Sean Ervine (12) and Glenn Maxwell to shoulder the responsibility between them but when the Zimbabwean was then bowled at 89 for five, it looked like far too much to do to drag the game out of the fire.
Matt Coles (16) then holed out, while Chris Wood (four) then nicked behind to give former Hampshire man Dan Christian two quick wickets.
Maxwell (10), who had gone all guns blazing in every other knock since his arrival, was rather more conservative in his approach this time around, to hit a single boundary in his 12-ball stay.
But the new strategy ended in another failure, as he eventually went for a big shot, only to find the fielder in the deep.
From there, it was game over with Hampshire bowled out for 123 in the 17th over - to seal another insipid home loss.